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Introducing: Paul van Trigt

Since 1 February 2016, Paul van Trigt is postdoctoral researcher in the project Rethinking Disability: the Impact of the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) in Global Perspective at the Institute for History.

If I was asked ten years ago what I, as a historian, would investigate in the first place, then I would never ever answered ‘the Global Impact of the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) in Historical Perspective’. However, this is exactly what I am doing with a lot of pleasure as postdoctoral researcher in the ERC-project Rethinking Disability.

What happened? During the last year of my studies in History, I became highly interested in the historiography on religion and secularization in the modern age and I wanted to do PhD research in that field. After a year of studying philosophy and some short-term jobs (e.g. the Jewish Historical Museum), I started my PhD research at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 2007.

My PhD project was initially set up as a study about pillarization, secularization and the welfare state, which should be based on a case study about a Dutch care institution for the blind. However, during my research my interest shifted from the history of religion to the history of disability. Although the historiography of religion remained part of  my PhD-thesis, which is published as Blind in eengidsland. Over de bejegening van mensen met een visuele beperking in de Nederlandse verzorgingsmaatschappij, 1920-1990 (Hilversum: Verloren, 2013), the historical development of the position of visually disabled persons in the Netherlands in the twentieth century was the main topic of my book. It reflected my enthusiasm for disability as an analytic category like gender and race, which enables us to investigate what people felt to be ‘normal’, and the power question ‘who gets what, when and how’ in society.

After my PhD defense, I was a lecturer in political history in Utrecht and I have worked from different angles on disability in collaboration with societal partners and researchers from other disciplines. I edited for example a special issue for the journal Social Inclusion. After a period of intensive teaching and interdisciplinary explorations, I am happy to find myself back in a project and within an Institute where historical questions are taking the lead and where a lot of expertise with transnational and global perspectives is available. At the moment I am writing papers in which I use my archival research about the International Year of Disabled Persons to shed new light on the historiography about equal citizenship in the Dutch and Dutch Caribbean context.

Moreover, I am writing a report for the Department of Justice about violence against blind children in the past, I supervise research trainees of the faculty in the project Diversifying the Collections, and I am going to teach in Leiden next year. Next year I will also visit the archives of the United Nations to investigate the discussions and policies about equality and rights of ‘vulnerable’ groups at that level in order to contribute to the historiographical debates about human rights, inequality and the practices of states. After these investigations I will again focus on some local, probably urban cases, but first things first…

Read more about Paul van Trigt's work for the Department of Justice in Dutch.

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