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Rafaëlle Kwakkel: ‘What we do here today affects the world of tomorrow’

Rafaëlle Kwakkel is currently studying Literary Studies: Literature in Society. In addition to her studies, she works at Studium Generale and enjoys being creative.

‘I studied at the University of the Arts Utrecht (HKU). There, I researched the role of robots in theatre. That is how I became interested in the relationship between humanities and exact sciences in society. Fiction has the ability to make the causes and consequences of mutual incomprehension visible. That's why I wanted to further investigate how this relationship is expressed in literature, and in turn what influence literature has on society,' says Rafaëlle.

'This specialisation is perfect for what I want to accomplish. Through literature and other cultural expressions, you study how literature influences certain social developments, how these social developments influence people and how people reflect on them. The great thing is that you are pushed to take on different viewpoints on different subjects: from influences of urbanisation and the relationship between literature and justice, to postcolonialism and trauma studies. These subjects give me the tools to develop a broader perspective on the world.'

Rafaëlle Kwakkel

Science communication

‘After my studies I would like to continue in science communication, which is clearly a result of my work at Studium Generale,’ explains Rafaëlle. ‘At Studium Generale we organise lectures on a wide range of scientific research for anyone who’s interested. This includes people affiliated with the university who want to learn something outside their field, but also anyone who wants to learn more about the research done here. Each season, we try to cover a variety of fields. We have a lecture series on George Orwell, for example, but we have also started to work on the subject of artificial intelligence.’

‘I think it is important that people are well informed about what happens within the walls of the university. What we do here today affects the world of tomorrow.’

Creative pastime

‘It’s probably no surprise to hear that my biggest pastime is reading, but I also watch a lot of television shows. Because of my research into artificial intelligence, it’s mostly science fiction at the moment,’ says Rafaëlle. ‘I also like going to the theatre. During my studies at the HKU and afterwards, I worked as a writer or dramaturge on theatre productions. Theatre remains the most magical form of art for me, because it happens in the moment and there is direct interaction between actors and the audience.’

‘I am lucky there is overlap between my interests and my studies. My parents have a similar background, so they have always encouraged me to do what I want to do. When I started studying, I went in the creative direction. As I get older, I sometimes think that maybe I should have made different choices for the sake of financial security, but that feeling of doubt is short-lived. Whenever I'm working on a creative project or am in the office at Studium Generale, I think: “Wow, I can’t believe that I’m the one doing this! This is amazing!”

In the Humans of Humanities series, we will do a portrait of one of our researchers, staff members or students, every other week. Who are they, and what do they do? You can find more portraits and information on this page.

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