Eight months in the life of the PhD-candidates of ‘The Invention of the Refugee’-project

Written by Lotte van Hasselt | Published on 11/10/2019

Ajax triumphed against Real Madrid (okay, this was in March), Theresa May was still trying to get a better deal, and ‘The Invention of the Refugee’-project kicked off. February 2019 was a good month. Eight months in, and a lot has happened. Where are we now? 

The first few months were used to get a good overview of what was happening in our field by reading and discussing books during our project-meetings, attending lectures, and doing a course in Cultural History at the Huizinga-institute. These months were also used to understand where to go for the best coffee, not get lost in the building, and remembering a lot of names. While some of these activities are still going on (especially not getting lost in the building), we have also started, and finished, our pilot study. The pilot study consists of an introduction to our projects and a case study. 

Gerdien’s pilot study is concerned with Moriscos, Muslims who were, forcefully, converted to Christianity in the sixteenth-century and expelled from Spain in the seventeenth-century, and their descendants. The main objectives are how the Moriscos presented themselves as refugees in Tunis and how they tried to defend their rights in the Mediterranean in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries. She has studied a part of the manuscript El Tratado de los Dos Caminos (The Treatise on the Two Paths) to answer these questions. 

Hans’ pilot study is a case-study on how the Sephardic Jew, Menasseh Ben Israel, used his position as an exile and sought to create a better position for arriving Jewish migrants in Amsterdam and abroad.

Lotte has studied letters sent to the Austin Friars Church in London and the Synod of Zuid-Holland in the Dutch Republic by exiles who fled the Palatinate during the Thirty Years’ War. She has investigated the argumentative strategies these exiles developed to convince their prospective benefactors that they deserved solidarity and charity. 

Besides our pilot studies, we also followed language courses, did several talks (for example the Summer School of the UvA for aspiring students who would like to know more about studying at the Humanities faculty here), and went to the archives.

This September David de Boer has joined our project as a postdoc, to read more about his project click on this link

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