Global Ethnography (MSc)
Within the Global Ethnography specialisation, you can develop your own research project or make use of the research opportunities offered by our staff members listed below.
- Custom as Capital in Upland South and Southeast Asia (Erik de Maaker)
Regional focus: South and Southeast Asia
- Gold in Ghana (Sabine Luning and Jan Jansen)
Regional focus: West-Africa
- Museums, Heritage and Material Culture (Peter Pels)
Regional focus: West-Africa
Global Ethnography alumni experiences
GE alumna Anne Veens
Farming with all my heart: Multi-sensorial experiences at a Dutch farm
The ethnographic method of living and working on a dairy farm enabled me to build relationships of trust with farmers in the North Holland agricultural sector. Attending daily life activities, such as feeding cows and checking grass, brought me a deep understanding of the sensorial skills these farmers use on and around their farms, and the ways they share this knowledge within their communities.
In 2018, I worked for a landscape development organisation when I noticed an increasing dissatisfaction among the farmers it was involved with. As told by the farmers themselves, they worried about changing agricultural policies and their controversial position in society. This led to anthropological research in which I tried to find out how (dairy) farmers in the so-called ‘Veenweidegebied’, an area between Amsterdam and Utrecht, experienced their land and their animals – with the underlying question if and how this might differ from non-farmer viewpoints. The farm of Wilko and Hermien Kemp, near Hilversum, became the starting point for this research.
For me, it felt like the best way to investigate this topic was to come as close as possible to the farmers’ experiences myself. The role of being an apprentice at the farm allowed me to learn about farm life from the inside out. My daily routine started before sunrise, when I was expected to take care of the calves and sometimes lasted until late in the evening, for example when the farmer needed a helping hand with supporting a cow in labor. This new rhythm certainly was challenging sometimes. Living and working together with this family was very different from my life in Leiden. Besides that, now and then the high degree of responsibility the farmer gave me caused uncomfortable or even nerve-wracking situations. Looking back, I still can feel the awkward tension after letting a group of sheep escape, while I was ought to lead it across the road…
But overall, my active involvement in the company paid off. I became more and more familiar with life at the farm. During the enriching lessons of the farmers, it became clear to me that their engagement with their land and animals is embodied in countless multi-sensorial experiences. They, for instance, taught me how to use my ears while assessing the health of a cow, my nose while smelling the quality of the milk and my feet while feeling the condition of the ground. Intimate kitchen table conservations, but also study club meetings with other farmers, turned out to be the perfect moments to further explore this knowledge and the circumstances in which it is acquired and transferred. In my opinion, agricultural policies could be way more effective if it takes into account how the farmers’ knowledge is deeply embedded in the farmers’ way of life, which is often determined by financial structures, neighbor networks and family ties.