NWO Vici grants for Ingrid Robeyns and Thijs Weststeijn

Research into visions for the future and a global perspective on 17th-century Dutch art

Thijs Weststeijn en Ingrid Robeyn
Thijs Weststeijn and Ingrid Robeyns

Ingrid Robeyns (Professor of Ethics of Institutions) and Thijs Weststeijn (Professor of Art History before 1800) have been awarded a Vici grant by the Dutch Research Council NWO. This grant worth up to 1.5 million euros will enable the laureates to develop an innovative line of research and set up their own research group for five years. Robeyns will conduct research into visions for a better society in the future. Weststeijn will investigate the interaction between Dutch seventeenth-century art and the world outside Europe.

A total of 22 leading scientists from the Science (ENW) and Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) domains, seven of whom are from Utrecht University, are receiving Vici grants. Vici is one of the largest scientific grants for individuals in the Netherlands and targets advanced researchers.

How can we make a systematic comparison and evaluation of different visions for the future?

Ingrid Robeyns: Visions for the future

Our current socio-economic system is confronted with several problems, such as ecological unsustainability and increasing inequality. In reaction, several alternative visions for the future have been formulated, such as the doughnut-economy, the wellbeing-economy, the economy for the common good, and basis income society. But how can we make a systematic comparison and evaluation of those visions? This project makes a comparative normative analysis of these proposed visions, develops a framework to conduct this analysis, and searches for hybrid or new visions.

How did the arts contribute to the rise of a global imaginary?

Thijs Weststeijn: The Dutch Global Age

The art of the Dutch ‘golden’ age has many non-Western elements. For example, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring wears an Islamic headscarf and Rembrandt was inspired by Indian painters. Moreover, Netherlandish artworks were traded worldwide. How did the arts contribute to the rise of a global imaginary? To what extent did the Dutch masters admire civilizations elsewhere in the world, and how was their own work received outside of Europe?

Weststeijn: “The Dutch Old Masters are more popular than ever before, if we look on a global scale. After all, they are exhibited in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. At the same time, the Netherlands itself is embroiled in a much-needed revision of its colonial past. How should what we used to call the ‘Golden Age’ be displayed in museums? In the project we develop a new interpretative framework for Dutch art in terms of exchange with the rest of the world.”

Prof. dr. Ingrid Robeyns
Prof. dr. Ingrid Robeyns. Foto: Roland Pierik

Ingrid Robeyns, Professor of Ethics of Institutions at the Ethics Institute, works on issues in contemporary political philosophy and applied ethics. Until the end of 2022, she is working on a book on ‘limitarianism’, the synthesis of the ‘Fair Limits project, which examines the distributive rule that there should be upper limits to how many resources it is morally permissible to have. She received an ERC Consolidator for this project. In addition, she is involved in the ‘Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies’ (ESDiT) project, which brings together scholars from six Dutch universities.

Her publications include Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-examined (2017) and the Dutch book Rijkdom (2019) written for a wide audience. She is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and associate editor of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities. In 2021 she won the Emma Goldman Award for talented and engaged scholars on feminist and inequality issues in Europe. The Dutch education labour union AOb awarded her the AcademieKus on Valentine’s Day 2021 in recognition of her work for WOinActie, the protest movement that has put the inadequate funding of universities on the political agenda.

Prof. dr. Thijs Weststeijn. Foto: Ed van Rijswijk
Prof. dr. Thijs Weststeijn. Foto: Ed van Rijswijk

Thijs Weststeijn is Professor of Art History before 1800. After studying art history and philosophy, he received his PhD from the University of Amsterdam with a thesis on art theory in Rembrandt’s circle. Since then he has tried to outline broader frameworks for Dutch art of the seventeenth century: within the cultural area around the North Sea; in interaction with East Asia; and ultimately in relation to Dutch worldwide expansion.

In this research he was supported by the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and the Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin, among others. He was vice director of the Amsterdam Centre for Cultural Heritage and Identity and chaired the research projects ‘The Chinese Impact’ and ‘Histories of Global Netherlandish Art.’

His publications include The Visible World (2008), The Universal Art of Samuel van Hoogstraten (2013), Art and Antiquity in the Netherlands and Britain (2015), Foreign Devils and Philosophers (2020) and the trilogy The Making of the Humanities (ed. with Rens Bod and Jaap Maat, 2010-2014). He is editor of the leading journals Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art and History of Humanities. He also worked for several museums and was curator of the exhibition Barbarians and Philosophers at the Frans Hals Museum (2017).