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Priv├ębezit Nico Kaptein

Professor bids farewell with roadshow in Indonesia: 'One big celebration of recognition'

Whereas most outgoing professors are offered a congress, Nico Kaptein's former students and PhD students took a bigger approach. They treated him not only to a farewell congress, but also to a two-week tour of Indonesia, filled with lectures, and trips.

As professor of Islam in Southeast Asia, Kaptein was coordinator of several collaborative projects on Islam studies with the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs. Talented Indonesian students and PhD students were brought to Leiden, where they were trained in the methodology of Islam studies and could use the collections in the library and archives. 'I saw hundreds of Indonesians come through between 1989 and 2012 and supervised very many of them on their master's thesis or PhD programme,' Kaptein looks back. 'That was something I always enjoyed.'

In recent years in particular, the emphasis has additionally been on training young academic leaders. 'That has worked out very well,' says Kaptein. 'A lot of our students are now professors or deans, or hold other senior positions in academia. As a result, I have a huge network of former students in central positions in Indonesia. When they heard I was going to retire, they came up with the idea of taking me there. For that, they mobilised the network of former Leiden students in Indonesia.'

Round trip

That network subsequently turned out to be extremely enthusiastic. What started with a plan for a two-day conference in Jakarta ended up as a two-week tour of West Sumatra, Lombok and West Java with the help of the Leiden network. 'In a total of ten days, I gave six lectures on my ongoing research, opened an exhibition on Snouck Hurgronje in Serang and made all kinds of special trips, from a visit to Multatuli's old house in Rangkasbitung to a holy tomb in Ulakan that I had read about,' Kaptein says.

An enormous boost

Perhaps the most special were the meetings with his former students. 'I met at least 60 of them. That was one big celebration of recognition. That was very special, also because they are all doing so well. For them, that study in Leiden really was a crucial period in their development, which gave their careers an enormous boost. It is nice to see that there is also a reciprocal side to that. They have received a lot from us, but now they have given something really gratifying back by literally putting me in the limelight. I have really been welcomed so warmly everywhere.'

Nico Kaptein was invited by Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia in Jakarta (Noorhaidi Hasan and Yanwar Pribadi). The trip was co-sponsored by Universitas Islam Negeri (UIN) Padang (Yasrul Huda), UIN Mataram (Mohamad Abdun Nasir), UIN Banten (Ade Suryani) and the Leiden University office in Jakarta (Marrik Bellen).

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