Popular culture and war

Prof. dr. Kees Ribbens, Endowed chair
'Popular Historical Culture of Global Conflicts and Mass Violence’

Portrait Kees Ribbens
Roy Borghouts

The Chair ‘Popular Historical Culture of Global Conflicts and Mass Violence’, is a Network Chair initiated in 2012 by the NIOD Institute of War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and is based at ESHCC. The chair focuses on the public and everyday engagement with historical experiences and perceptions following wars and large-scale violence in traditional and new media from 1900 to the present. Popular historical culture thus relates both to the content (narratives about war) and to the infrastructure that makes this interaction possible.

This Network Chair was established in 2012.  The chair holder, Kees Ribbens PhD, is active as endowed professor at ESHCC for 0.2 FTE (0.1 research; 0.1 education).

Recently, doctoral studies have been completed on the representation of the Holocaust in Dutch and German history textbooks (Van Berkel 2017), on the popularization of World War II in Dutch film, musical and tourism (Slegtenhorst 2019), and on the representation of World War II in video games (Van den Heede 2021).


Current projects


1. ImageLab

The NIOD ImageLab combines the institute’s visual historical research and its valuable and extensive collections to generate new research on war and visual culture.

Rapid developments in visual technology and digital archives continually change how we experience, see, think about, remember and represent war and mass violence. NIOD’s ImageLab focuses on the historical significance and affective force of images developed in the darkroom of history and remediated in the present.

The project "Behind the Star" focuses on photographs in which people are depicted wearing the Yellow Star sewn or pinned onto their clothing. From May 1942, the wearing of a yellow fabric star – called the “Jodenster” in the Netherlands – was made compulsory by the German occupiers. This measure made it easy to identify Jewish people and was intended to stigmatize and dehumanize them.

This project aims to find the names of those portrayed, as well as to identify information that can help us and others tell the stories of their lives.


2. Visual Storytelling and Graphic Art in Genocide and Human Rights Education

Kees Ribbens also participates in the international project Visual Storytelling and Graphic Art in Genocide and Human Rights Education initiated by professor Charlotte Schallié, University of Victoria, Canada.

This project builds on an innovative approach to recording and commemorating the experiences of genocide and mass atrocity survivors through the co-creation of graphic novels based on survivors’ experiences. With partners in 16 countries, the initiative connects 11 survivors of the Holocaust and mass atrocities committed in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Syria and Canada with a team of 52 scholars, 13 artists and practitioners from 36 museums, schools and human rights groups. Over the next seven years, this international team will produce documentary films, museum exhibitions, gallery installations, youth-appropriate educational materials and graphic novels that will reach audiences around the world and help teach a new generation about mass-atrocities, large-scale traumas and human rights.


Contact details

Prof.dr. (Kees) CR Ribbens | Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication | Erasmus University Rotterdam (eur.nl)

Dr. Pieter van den Heede
Public Perceptions of Warfare

NVIDIA Gamer's Day at Taiwan's largest LAN party

Pieter Van den Heede is a lecturer and researcher at the History Department of ESHCC. In his research, he focuses on historical imaginations, in particular of warfare, and how these are shaped by media/communication technologies.

In his dissertation, entitled 'Engaging with the Second World War through Digital Gaming', he studied how the Second World War is represented in digital entertainment games, what it means for players to engage with these games, and which recommendations can be formulated to foster critical reflection on the history of the war via gaming. In his current research, he focuses on public perceptions of warfare in the twentieth century via text mining methods, and how the widespread adoption of social media platforms such as Spotify, YouTube and Twitch is reconfiguring historical engagement, in particular from the perspective of public history.

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