Knowledge offers comfort and support, provided of course that it is embedded in good frameworks and grounded in empathy.
Relevance of the humanities
By putting her research to good use, Beatrice de Graaf is highlighting the social relevance of the humanities: ‘In situations of threat, crisis and violence, people usually start crying out for solutions. Doing nothing is not an option. The eventual solution – new laws, prisons, stricter punitive measures, a wall, and so on – is portrayed as inevitable and immediately necessary. While this fact is sometimes true, taking a look across national borders or to the past will reveal what really works and what won’t work at all. From the perspective of history and political science, you can therefore unravel, scrutinise as well as exhibit the entire arsenal and reservoir of possible solutions to come up with solutions that are potentially much better.’
The Professor likes looking beyond the boundaries of her own field. ‘Historical study is done on the basis of common sense, using methodologies that entail the nuanced, principled analysis of sources to show how something once was, how it came to be so and how it carries over into the present time. If you then enrich history with some additional conceptual tools, a governance model and a legal framework, you’ll be able to apply that knowledge and those insights from the past to the present as well. We’re taking this approach in Utrecht with the team of Paul ’t Hart, Mirko Noordegraaf, Scott Douglas and Kees van de Bos, as well as with the educationalists Mariëtte de Haan and Micha de Winter. This collaborative effort, supported by Jacco Pekelder, Ralph Sprenkels, Jolle Demmers and myself, has been extremely fruitful and enriching over the past few years. Without these people and their insights, I would not have been able to write my projects and texts.'
Teaching method on terrorism
For example, she developed a teaching method on terrorism, antiterrorism, radicalisation and deradicalisation for education in conjunction with Professors of Pedagogy Micha de Winter and Mariëtte de Haan. Consisting of a special app, the method (which is currently still at the pilot stage but will be made publicly accessible from September 2018 onwards) is intended to address feelings of anger, fear and helplessness among pupils in class which are related to terrorist violence. The Stevin Prize makes it possible to expand this app further.