Laurens Ham (1985) is assistant professor in Modern Dutch Literature, essayist and poet. His research centers issues around participation and political representation(s) in literature and other art forms. Central questions in his research trajectory are: how do writers, musicians and other artists represent socio-political topics in their works? How do they address societal issues, and how do they attempt to change the world (with their artworks, via protests, lobby and media appearances)? And in what ways do societal institutions such as arts foundations, political parties, media and security agencies impact the work of artists?
Currently, co-researcher Frank Keizer and Ham conduct a NWO Open Competition XS project about the relations between Dutch security agencies and literary authors and intellectuals during the Cold War. The project focuses on networks with (post)colonial countries Indonesia and Suriname, and on Dutch contacts with Central and Eastern European communist countries.
Between 2018 and 2022, he conducted a project ('Veni', funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) about the roles authors have played in Dutch literary (subsidy) policy since the 1960s: as activists, policy officials for the Dutch Foundation for Literature, public intellectuals, politicians and applicants. Furthermore, he was principal investigator of a short research project (July 2020-May 2021) on the impact of the corona crisis on the Dutch book market, funded by ZonMw.
He writes not only about literature, policy, politics and societal institutions, but also about activism and protest songs. In November 2020, his book Op de vuist (Fistfights) was published, a history of Dutch protest songs since 1966, in all pop genres ('Dutch pop', cabaret, punk, hiphop, and more). In this book, the political and activist history of the Netherlands is also discussed. The book led to interview in the newspapers Trouw and Het Parool, and to several radio and television interviews. In 2022, he produced the podcast series Doe Maar Normaal about the history of Dutch protest music, together with Rose Heijnen and Mirthe van der Drift.
Laurens's PhD thesis (2010-2014) was on the intersection of authorship studies and political history. It discussed the postures of ten Dutch authors (1820-1970) who combined an 'autonomous' self-representation with political engagement. The project showed how a plea for an autonomous author position can go hand in hand with a explicit political positioning. In 2015, a book version of the thesis was published in Dutch: Door Prometheus geboeid. De autonomie en autoriteit van de moderne Nederlandse auteur (Captivated by Prometheus: The Autonomy and Authority of the Modern Dutch Author).