Universiteit Leiden

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Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology

Vulnerability and the associated levels of social resilience is what fascinates the researchers at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology. What links a Japanese fisherman after the tsunami at Fukushima with a Ghanaian goldminer in an increasingly industrialised work environment? Despite changing conditions, both have managed to carry on with their lives and adapt to a new reality. How have they achieved this? How do they develop the resilience to cope with an environment that can be difficult to comprehend?

Critical help

Anthropologists want to help people, governments and organisations. Take the research that master’s students are doing into residents’ perceptions of liveability and security in the Slaaghwijk neighbourhood in Leiden. Or the broad research into the relationship – including the cultural, economic and social aspects – that societies all around the world have with water.

The crux of the work of a cultural anthropologist is to view problems and challenges with a critical eye. This information is important for policymakers when they make decisions.

Diversity, sustainability and digitalisation

Research at the Institute is conducted within three themes:

  • diversity
  • sustainability
  • digitalisation

The anthropologists at the Institute look at social and cultural diversity in our own societies as well as in societies in regions such as non-Western societies. Key to this are the Institute’s contacts with local, regional and national networks, such as universities, institutes, NGOs, municipalities and ministries.

As regards sustainability, the emphasis lies not only on material but also on socio-cultural aspects. How to you preserve your identity in a changing society? Like the goldminer who knows that certain activities are bad for the earth, but also has to change to keep up with life in his own country.

Anthropologists from Leiden also study the effects of the digitalisation of everyday life. This can vary from the question of how digital tsunami alerts can help Japanese fishermen in their dealings with their natural environment to whether social media makes us more or less sociable. This digitalisation is also being introduced in education.

Signature methodology

There are three aspects to the Institute’s signature methodology: digital and visual methods, qualitative research and quantitative research. It even offers a master’s specialisation in Visual Ethnography.

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