Research programs and projects

CHC research program 'Historical Culture'

Interpretations of the past can evoke strong emotions and inflamed debates, as is evident in contemporary discussions about traces of colonialism and war. Researchers of the Center for Historical Culture investigate the dynamics of such encounters with sensitive violent pasts since ca. 1800. We study these encounters from an inclusive point of view provided by the concept of historical culture, which basically comprises the study of how people attribute meaning to the past on three interrelated levels: historical narratives; mnemonic infrastructures; conceptions of history (progress, eschatology). This encompasses material and immaterial culture, and academic and popular genres: from writing and reading historiographies and schoolbooks, to visiting heritage sites and museums to playing historical video games, re-enacting sensitive pasts, and engaging in mnemonic discussions on social media, from commemorating and entertaining to learning and teaching. 

All these expressions help individuals and communities to attribute meaning to the past which (sub)consciously happens on the basis of transmitted (adjusted) traditions and its various more or less familiar genres with overlapping publics and influences. This involves not only the contents of collective memory and historical imagination, but also the ways in which relationships with the past are established via interactions between human agency, tradition, performance of memory, historical representations and their dissemination, as well as the presumptions about what exactly constitutes history. Hence, this type of research is guided by a theoretical meta-perspective, giving space to reflections on the history of historiography, including public history, historical methodology and the theory of history. From this perspective we study how social, political and technological developments, as well as globalisation, prompt the remediation of historical narratives and the creation of new ones.

The program War! Popular Culture and European Heritage of Major Armed Conflicts exemplifies this kind of research. In collaboration with colleagues of ERMeCC and Erasmus Studio we investigate representations of violent pasts in contemporary historical culture.

Former financed research projects at CHC

1. NWO: Heritage Education, Plurality of Narratives and Shared Historical Knowledge; Maria Grever and Carla van Boxtel (2009-2014). Read the book Verlangen naar tastbaar verleden.

2. NWO Valorization: Dynamic heritage education in The Netherlands; Maria Grever and Stephan Klein (2013). View the research workshop of Atlantic Slave Trade.

3. WRR / Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy: National Identity in Context; Maria Grever and Kees Ribbens (2005-2007). Read the book Nationale identiteit en meervoudig verleden.

4. NWO: Paradoxes of De-Canonization. New Forms of Cultural Transmission in History; Maria Grever, Siep Stuurman and Kees Ribbens (2004-2006). Read the book Beyond the canon.

Former visiting scholars

2018-2019: Mao Ruohan MA (Zhejiang University, China) worked in our research Center for Historical Culture as a joint training PhD student for 12 months, supported by China Scholarship Council (CSC). The research began on October 15, 2018 and ended on October 1, 2019. The project focused on "The contextualizing of heritage objects in museums". Supervisor was prof.dr. Hester Dibbits.

2016: Prof. Christine Gundermann (University of Cologne)

2015: Dr Cesar Lopez (Autonomous University Madrid/European University of Madrid)

2008-2010: Fernando Sánchez Costa (Assistant Professor at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (Barcelona, Spain)
Click here to read his testimony.