VENI scholarship for young scientists

An opportunity for 6 Utrecht humanities scholars to further develop their research ideas

VENI winners Humanities Faculty

This year, six scholars from the Faculty of Humanities will receive a NWO Veni grant of 250,000 euros each. This will enable them to further develop their own research ideas for a period of three years. A total of 25 researchers from Utrecht University received a grant. 

Why late medieval copyists drastically changed the spelling of ancient texts

There is increasing evidence that late medieval copyists drastically changed the spelling of ancient texts so that they seemed even older and more difficult than they already were. However, it is unclear why they did this and also how good they were at it.

Dr Nike Stam : Updating and downdating: the orthographic interference of late-medieval Irish scribes in early-medieval texts

"Although most people shudder when you drop the word 'spelling', it is a very fascinating subject that can tell us a lot about the way people have dealt with written texts over the centuries" explains Dr Nike Stam. "From Ireland, for example, there is increasing evidence that late medieval copyists drastically changed the spelling of ancient texts so that they seemed even older and more difficult than they already were. However, it is unclear why they did this and also how good they were at it, and this is exactly what I will be investigating in the Veni project. It is important to get to the bottom of this because otherwise, as scholars, we cannot distinguish with certainty between texts that are really old and texts that have been made older by their copyists. And this is not only true for Irish texts: in all historical disciplines we are dependent on all kinds of copyists. It is therefore important to understand what kind of adaptations to their source text they allowed themselves. It is a great honour for me to work on this project with a Veni scholarship and I am incredibly looking forward to it."

The impact of digitisation on educational values in Dutch primary education

Dr Niels Kerssens: The platformisation of primary education: public values at risk

Forced home schooling during the lockdown in March 2020 in the Netherlands gave an enormous boost to the already advanced digitisation of Dutch primary education. Educational platforms of private tech companies are increasingly taking control of the organisation of public primary education and are using their platforms to connect new values to learning, such as flexibility, personalisation and quantification. My project investigates the impact of digitisation on educational values in Dutch primary education and studies how to preserve public values such as equality, social connectedness, autonomy and security in the use of digital education platforms.

© iStockphoto.com
© iStockphoto.com

For example, what is the impact of student tracking systems on security? The behaviour and progress of each child can be monitored in detail. This offers new opportunities for efficient and effective interventions in the learning process, but at the same time raises questions about the status of the classroom as a safe learning environment.

Niels Kerssens: "The Veni is an exceptional opportunity to contribute to the well-considered and responsible use of educational technology at a time when education is accelerating digitisation. It is my intention to quickly make research results useful to education professionals. For example, I will develop an online decision-making tool to help schools and teachers to safeguard public educational values when purchasing and using digital educational technology. At the same time, my project can make an important contribution to a new international field of research aimed at educational digitisation by investigating, from a case study at the national and local level of Dutch primary schools, an issue of international importance concerning the impact of private education platforms on the organisation of a public European education system."

How fire risks and prevention transformed the Low Countries (1200-1650)

Dr Janna Coomans: (In)flammable Cities: How fire risks and prevention transformed the Low Countries (1200-1650)

Fire plagued pre-industrial cities due to widespread presence of combustible materials and use of open fire. In her Veni project Janna Coomans investigates how Netherlandish cities adapted their socio-political organization and built environment to mitigate these risks. This provides insight into both the impact of environmental hazards themselves and preventative practices to reduce them.

Grote brand te Haarlem, 1576, Jan Luyken, 1696-1698 © Rijksmuseum
Major fire in Haarlem, 1576, Jan Luyken, 1696-1698 © Rijksmuseum

The question of life and living under dehumanising conditions of war and settler colonialism

Given the rise of extremist views in Europe and globally, it is all the more urgent today to reiterate the role arts and culture plays in imagining alternative world-making possibilities.

Dr Layal Ftouni: Ecologies of Violence: Affirmations of Life in Arab Cultural Productions

In 2012, the United Nations declared that the Gaza strip will be “unlivable” by 2020. How is life upheld in a state of unlivability, both human and environmental? In her research Layal Ftouni explores the question of life and living at the boundaries with death under dehumanising conditions of war and settler colonialism. "Focusing on creative practices (novels, poetry, film, contemporary art) emerging from Syria and Occupied Palestine, the research  explores art’s capacity to affirm life beyond the legal and political adjudication of what it means to be ‘human’ today.”

"I am beyond thrilled to receive the Veni award. I have been working towards this topic for the last year and very excited that, now, I can devote the time and attention this research demands. The Veni application process has, without a doubt, been a demanding and rigorous process, but it was also thoroughly rewarding. I am grateful for the committee’s close engagement with the project, and for all the hard work and administrative efforts that happen “behind the scenes” to make the Veni SSH an inclusive and critical space for future research in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Given the rise of extremist views in Europe and globally, it is  all the more urgent today to reiterate the role arts and culture plays in imagining alternative world-making possibilities.”

Language as predictor of psychosis

Psychose © iStockphoto.com/SIphotography
© iStockphoto.com/SIphotography

Dr Tessel Boerma: What are you saying? Language as predictor of psychosis in the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome

The 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) is a unique model for studying psychosis risk. There are strong indications that psychosis is foreshadowed by atypical language characteristics. This project investigates language in relation to (pre)psychotic symptoms in 22q11DS, supporting our understanding of developmental mechanisms and early identification of this devastating mental illness.

The inspiring story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners

Dr Gianmaria Colpani: Coalitions across Differences: A Study of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners

"Thanks to the NWO Talent Program Veni, in the next three years I will research the inspiring story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), a solidarity group active in London during the historic miners’ strike of 1984-1985. I will dig into multiple archives and I will interview former members of LGSM as well as other activists involved in the solidarity movement for the miners at the time. In this way, I will study not only the coalition between LGSM and the miners, but also the network of political relations that LGSM established with other women’s, lesbian, and black groups during that one-year-long struggle against the authoritarian government of Margaret Thatcher.   

The story of LGSM shows that struggles for social and economic justice require effective coalitions, sometimes among unlikely bedfellows. This story matters because it can teach us how these expansive coalitions can emerge across differences, which is a very urgent matter today across Europe, in the United States, and globally."   

 

Support the Miners at London Pride 2015. Bron: Wikimedia/David Jones
Support the Miners at London Pride 2015. Source: Wikimedia/David Jones