Universiteit Leiden

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Stage for the Humanities

In 2022, for one year, Leiden will be European City of Science. For humanities scholars, this offers enormous opportunities to bring their work to the attention of citizens. Rob Zwijnenberg, chairman of the steering committee that coordinates the faculty's contributions, talks about these opportunities.

What does Leiden City of Science entail?

‘For one entire year, the city will revolve around science. The largest European congress for interdisciplinary research will be held in Leiden, but there will also be 365 days of events where citizens get to discover science.

Of course, the humanities should not be missing during these events. That is why the Faculty Board has made € 20,000 available for staff member initiatives.’ 

So staff members can showcase their work?

‘That's a little bit too passive. What matters most is that the citizens of Leiden discover what significance the Humanities can have for their lives. We have to show the citizens of Leiden, in practice, the diversity and polyphony of the humanities and enter into dialogue with them.

We can do this with proposals in the field of the faculty's spearheads for the ECS year: Identity, Migration, Artificial Intelligence, Museums and Collections, Public Space; however, proposals don’t need to be limited to these themes. I’ll give an example: public space is very much being threatened. There are cameras everywhere, some places you are not allowed to enter or sit in. All sorts of private spaces have suddenly been created, such as shopping malls that have security guards walking around. What does that actually mean and how should we as a society deal with this?’

What do humanities scholars have to say about social issues like this?

‘Other sciences, such as the medical ones, naturally have an enormous influence on everyday life. But often, they only think in terms of solutions within their field. We go one step further: what are the consequences of those solutions? What are our goals as a society?   

Humanities scholars often have a broader view of the context in which things take place. We are used to looking for issues or problems that other stakeholders in the public debate avoid. That is our critical function. We ask about the why.’

What do you like best about Leiden City of Science?

‘The opportunity offered to us as humanities scholars to be actively present in the city. To show that the things we think about at this faculty really have an effect on the everyday life of everyone living in Leiden. The way people interact with each other in a city like this, the way people view this city.'

Who can staff members contact about their ideas?

‘At the beginning of January, the procedure for submitting proposals will be announced, as well as how the faculty can financially and organisationally support initiatives. I chair the steering committee; if there are currently any questions, people can contact me.

Above all, I would like to call on everyone to already start thinking about appealing initiatives for Leiden City of Science 2022.'

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