PHD Position: Ownership at its Limits: Military Collections and the Question of Provenance

Updated: about 2 months ago
Job Type: Temporary
Deadline: 07 May 2021

This four-year PhD student position is based at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s (VU) Faculty of Humanities, within the framework of the NWA project “Pressing Matter. Ownership, Value and the Question of Colonial Heritage in Museums”. This collaborative, interdisciplinary project responds to the growing contestation over what to do with the colonial heritage held in museums.

This PhD position will be part of a broader subproject (WP2) that explores questions of Ownership in relation to colonial collections in museums, and will look at collections acquired during military campaigns in the 19th century in Indonesia. Exploring collections held by several institutions (the National Museums of World Cultures, Wereldmuseum, Bronbeek Museum and Rijksmuseum) the PhD research will focus on collections linked to the Java Wars (1825-1830), the expeditions to Sumatra (1830s), the Balinese interventions (1840s/50s and then later 1906 and 1908), the Banjarmasim War (1859-1863), the Aceh War(s) (1873-1904), the intervention in Lombok and Karangasem (1894) and the South Sulawesi expedition (1904-5) for example.

Surveying collections and researching the micro-histories of specific objects, object types and collections, this research project will explore the strategies of taking that emerge from warfare, and how this has influenced the different museums and their collections. The researcher will draw on provenance research and biographical approaches, to explore and analyze the historical conditions under which objects were taken, and entered museum collections. This PhD will use existing archival sources, including those illuminating military networks and careers.

This PhD project will seek to answer the questions how and why were specific objects taken during situations of conflict, what was the nature of the power relations that characterized these transactions, and what were the processes that secured such collections for museums, to assess the lasting material legacies that such acts of possession/dispossession represent.

The PhD student will be employed by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands and enrolled in its doctoral programme, which is part of the Graduate School of the Humanities. This PhD project will be co-supervised by Prof. Henrietta Lidchi and Prof. Dr. Wayne Modest

Your duties

  • submit a PhD thesis on the abovementioned topic within the period of appointment
  • complete and submit at least one article for an international, peer-reviewed journal within the period of appointment
  • participate in meetings, conferences, and labs organized in the framework of the Pressing Matter project
  • assist with the organization/coordination of the project’s Provenance Research Labs
  • contribute to authoring reports and other documentation in the context of e Pressing Matter project
  • Based on research findings, contribute to the improvement of the documentation of the museums collections
  • participate in the PhD training programs of the Graduate school of Humanities
  • teaching at the BA level or other type of activities in the 2nd or 3rd year may also be required

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