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Kick-off meeting for expert group on transnational life-writing

On Friday, September 30th, the VU-based international expert group “Unhinging the National Framework: Platform for the Study of Transnational Life-Writing” had its long-awaited kick-off meeting. Dr. Babs Boter, instructor and researcher at the Department of Language, Literature and Communication (TLC), has initiated the group and also acts as its convenor.

Clue+ meeting 30 September Susan Legene

Participants, among others prof. Susan Legêne, 2nd from left


Fifteen junior and senior scholars, all involved in biographical projects on internationally operating 20th century figures, shared their findings and ideas. Prof. dr. Susan Legêne, Professor of Political History at the VU, presented a keynote address on “Historiography and the Hinges of Biographic Representation.” Dr. Anneke Ribberink, guest researcher at the VU for the section of Political History, acted as respondent.


Clue+ meeting 30 September model boat

Dr Babs Boter shows the mascot of the group: an Indonesian model of a pirate ship, made of dried cloves, from the collection of the Royal Tropical Institute

The expert group will have a follow-up session on November 11th when Prof. Dr. Michiel van Kempen (UvA) will speak on his recently published biography of Albert Helman. On December 9th the group will hold a symposium that will be open to the public, and that will feature Prof. dr. Mineke Bosch (RUG) as keynote speaker.


Clue+ meeting 30 September Lonneke Geerlings Bettine Siertsema

Participants, extreme right: prof. Ribberink, extreme left Dr Lonneke Geerlings

The expert group’s mascot is a model boat entirely made of dried cloves produced in the Dutch East Indies. Made as a souvenir and now housed at the Tropenmuseum, the object reminds us of colonial histories, but also symbolizes movement and exchange. It further seems to suggest its producer’s agency as the small-scale vehicle features miniature passengers on deck. Finally, a similar model boat of cloves exhibited at the British Museum inspired the launch of yet another international expert group—one that exchanges knowledge of such small nautical artefacts. The VU-based Research Institute for Culture, History and Heritage, Clue+, and the TLC Department of the VU, are sponsors of the “Unhinging” project.



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