Bregje van Eekelen

Biographical note

Bregje van Eekelen (Ph.D. University of California, Santa Cruz) is Senior Researcher History of Social and Human Sciences at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus University. Her research and teaching focus on the history of the social and human sciences, including their public lives. These histories are not contained within the disciplines themselves – they are related to social, political and cultural processes, and in turn affect them.

Van Eekelen Bregje van Eekelen is a founding member of the Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge (EIPK), an interdisciplinary research institute that fosters and coordinates research on public issues by bringing together scientists from the social sciences and the humanities and offering them a platform for exchange with other disciplines. She is the co-chair of Young Erasmus Academy, an interdiscipinary network of young, excellent scientists at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

History and Anthropology of Traveling Concepts

In her research, Van Eekelen uses a combination of historical and anthropological approaches to the study of traveling concepts, most notably concepts that are situated on the boundary between culture and economy. They include concepts such as ‘marketplace of ideas,’ ‘emerging economies,’ ‘knowledge economy,’ and ‘creativity.’ She studies the socio-historical conditions of the emergence of these concepts; the knowledge practices, bureaucratic categories, and narratives through which they are stabilized and kept in place; and how they structure common sense, both in the past and in the present.

Recent articles were published or are forthcoming in the Journal of Cultural EconomyEconomy and SocietyPublic CultureConflict and Society, and the Annual Review of Anthropology. Her interest in the social etymologies of words used in the ‘war on terror’ and other disasters has led to amongst others Shock and Awe, War on Words (co-edited with Jennifer Gonzalez, Bettina Stoetzer, and Anna Tsing).

Current projects

Brainstorms: A Cultural History of Undisciplined Thought

This project is focused on the twentieth century history of creative thought in military-industrial contexts. This research project traces how processes of unstructured thought, such as having an “uncontrolled flow of ideas”, came to be framed as positive technologies for garnering new knowledge, especially in American military and industrial contexts, and how these technologies were gradually institutionalized to the point of becoming common sense. It details how the employment and valorization of unstructured thought emerged in response to e.g. military and managerial rationalities, the standardization and disciplining of work, and the incorporation of social scientists in corporate America.

For this research project Van Eekelen received an EUR fellowship and a NWO-Veni grant (2014-2018).

Depoliticization and the Public Interest

Van Eekelen is a founding member of the Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge (EIPK). At the EIPK, she is the co-PI for the collaborative research project Depoliticization and the Public Interest. By means of three strategic cases, this project seeks to untangle the technological, regulatory and affective dimensions of depoliticization, and the potentials for alternative forms of repoliticization.

The project was awarded a Research Excellence Initiative grant (2016-2021) and made possible by a start-up grant from the Trust Fonds.


Email address
+31 10 408 8838
Van der Goot Building | Building

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50

Bregje van Eekelen at Princeton