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Leiden research projects awarded NWO Open Competition grants

Various researchers from Leiden University have been awarded NWO (Dutch Research Council) Open Competition funding. Nine social sciences and humanities projects will receive the funding.

A total of 59 researchers have been awarded an NWO grant from the 39 million euros available. Researchers could apply for a maximum of 750,000 euros.

Below are the researchers from Leiden University who have been awarded funding in this round:

Crossing language borders

Applicants: Prof. E.O. Aboh (University of Amsterdam), Dr F.K. Ameka (Leiden University), Dr. M.C.P.C Parafita Couto (Leiden University)

Multilinguals easily weave their languages together like artists engaged in a colourful painting on a canvas. This process is called code-switching/code-mixing (CSCM). In multilingual communities like in Benin (West Africa) and Belize (Central America), CSCM is the norm in conversations, but we still don’t know how speakers mentally adapt to such multilingual contexts. Using analytic tools of the language sciences, the project seeks to understand how multilingual speakers do it. The findings can impact policies and practices of language use in education in these and similar multilingual communities where language mixing is the daily practice.

Digital warfare in the Sahel: Fulani popular networks of war and Cultural Violence

Applicant: Prof. M.E. de Bruijn (Leiden University)

Violent conflict is on the increase in the Sahel since 2012, coinciding with the increased use of social media in the region. The organisation of networks and their information flows are changing, and this project studies the conflict as a digitally and physically networked one. Cultural violence—the legitimation of violence—spreads through (trans)regional networks, and discursive and ‘real’ warfare become entangled. This interdisciplinary project focuses on (trans)regional Fulani networks, combining historical-ethnographic and computational methods to understand the ‘workings’ of networked conflict. The project warns of possible increases in ethnic violence, resulting from digital media uses.

On the representation of quantity: how our brains shape language

Applicant: Prof. J.S. Doetjes (Leiden University)

Quantity expressions in languages of the world show remarkable similarities that cannot be explained by descent from common ancestors. Are these similarities due to properties of human cognition? This project investigates properties of quantity expressions across languages in the light of what we know about the mental representation of quantity, thus aiming at gaining insight in how our brains shape language.

Learning from your errors: the development of word production in young children

Applicants: Prof. C.C. Levelt (Leiden University),  Prof. J.P.M. Fikkert (Radboud University)

Young children will often say ‘tuck’ when referring to the word ‘truck’. Is ‘tuck’ a speech error or does it result from flawed articulation? They could also have stored the word ‘truck’ as ‘tuck’ in their mental dictionary, due to incomplete perception or storage of all the sounds. Learning to speak involves the simultaneous acquisition of knowledge at several different levels and practice with applying this knowledge swiftly and smoothly when required. Errors are bound to arise in the immature system, but they also highlight what needs to be updated to the learner. This learning process will be charted.

At Home Otherwise: Rethinking Heritage through Diversity

Applicant: Prof. P.J. Pels (Leiden University)

Despite research into minoritized groups’ homes, and attempts to diversify heritage policies and practices, many initiatives remain stuck on ‘us’/’them’ oppositions governing authorized heritage discourses and its forms of exclusion. But ‘home’ cannot be reduced to such an opposition: we remember earlier homes and travelling away from them; we make ‘home’ where we are with those memories, but also with future wishes en desires; and under conditions shaped by others. Looking at heritage through this more complex lens, we ask how it may help reforming and democratizing authorized heritage-talk and its associated practices.

Experiencing Fragments

Applicant: Prof. A.B. Wessels (Leiden University)

Fragments are fascinating because they invite re-construction. Yet, for the same reason they are dangerous: it seems impossible to start a reconstruction without applying certain biases. Understanding how humans interpret fragments requires a multi-pronged approach, that incorporates insights on the historical, aesthetic, experiential and technical fronts.

This project will create an online platform for the fragments of early Roman tragedy, and develop digital tools for researching and experimenting with this textually fragmented material. We shall explore how fragments have been experienced in the past and show how these experiences can support students by training them in bias awareness.

Do you look me in the eye when I am talking to you? Effects of age and social anxiety

Applicant: Prof. P.M. Westenberg (Leiden University)

Social anxiety concerns negative evaluation and rejection by others. Socially anxious adults avoid eye-contact, which may inadvertently maintain or aggravate their anxiety. Little is known about (avoidance of) eye-contact in childhood and adolescence. We will compare eye-contact between children and adolescents with and without social anxiety problems to clarify both normal development of eye-contact and what goes wrong in socially anxious youth. In addition to the total duration of eye-contact, we will compare specific gaze patterns, such as to what extent (non) socially anxious children and adolescents follow implicit rules relating gaze behavior to turn-taking in a conversation.

Forgotten Lineages. Afterlives of Dutch Slavery in the Indian Ocean World

Applicant: Prof. N.K. Wickramasinghe (Leiden University)

This research project explores the paths through which generations of the formally enslaved and their descendants gradually forgot their past of enslavement under Dutch and British imperial rule and became local subjects. Its central question is why and how forgetting rather than memory became the basis of belonging and selfhood. This project is a rooted study of the hidden afterlives of Dutch slavery in these Indian Ocean territories across generations, in which processes of identity, group and community formation became entangled with forgotten slave ancestries under layered colonialism.

States in Shock: The Adaptive Capacities of State Administrations to Transboundary Crises

Applicants: Prof. A.K. Yesilkagit (Leiden University), Dr. P. Bezes (CNRS), Dr. S.L. Kuipers (Leiden University)

In the last twenty to thirty years, national states have experienced existential and transboundary crises and shocks. The way in which states have dealt with these shocks is far from ideal. In this project, we examine how the governance systems of national states respond to transboundary crises and whether governments are able to adapt them to better absorb future shocks.

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