Descartes Centre Colloquium with Sophie Bijleveld (Geosciences, UU)

The UU Faculty of Geosciences in the colonial and postcolonial order

Wichmannberg, New Guinea

Digging up the past? The UU faculty of Geosciences in the colonial and postcolonial order

It is with great enthusiasm that we invite you to join us for this exciting event. The colloquium will start with a presentation of Sophie Bijleveld’s PhD project on the colonial past of the faculty of Geosciences at Utrecht University (see the following abstract). An engaging panel discussion will follow this presentation. In this panel colleagues from different faculties from Utrecht University will contribute with short statements on this topic from different disciplinary perspectives. The panel and audience will then exchange ideas about the history of UU’s colonial past and its current implications. Questions like what are the continuities and discontinuities of current practices of knowledge production and colonial knowledge? How do we move forward? And what does it mean to “decolonize” knowledge? are central in the process of understanding the university’s role and responsibility in colonial science and to determine how to move forward.  

After the panel discussion, we will invite you to follow us on a visit to the Janskerkhof 13 building, where we’ll observe some traces of colonialism, guided by Paul Ziche and Clint Verdonschot’s expertise.

Portret Sophie Bijleveld
Sophie Bijleveld

Under the working title “The UU faculty of Geosciences in the colonial and postcolonial order, ca. 1879- 1990” this PhD-project aims to investigate the Geosciences faculty’s entanglements with colonialism, as well as the processes and (dis)continuities after formal decolonization into the late 20th century. The presentation will briefly introduce some dimensions of these entanglements from the faculty’s history.

However, movements within academia and beyond are increasingly calling for Dutch society not simply to acknowledge and engage with its colonial past but also for disciplines and institutions to decolonize. Yet in order to determine what such decolonizing should or could look like, or whether it is even possible to do so, these discussions also require us to grapple with questions about the concept and definition(s) of colonial science, as well as the “coloniality” in/of science. While not able to offer a ready answer to these big questions, I would like to end with an open exchange of ideas.

The presentation is followed by a panel discussion with the participation of:

  • Clint Verdonschot

  • Ana Rita Amaral 

  • Abigail Nieves Delgado  

  • Robert-Jan Wille

  • Christian Lange

Sophie Bijleveld is a PhD candidate in the department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning at the faculty of Geosciences. Her PhD project researches the colonial entanglements of Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences. She is a historian interested in colonial history, history of science and postcolonial (international) politics. She was previously a student at the RMA History at UU and studied abroad in Taiwan and Japan. 

Start date and time
End date and time
Sweelinckzaal (Drift 21 - 0.05)
Entrance fee

If you would like to participate online, please send an email to