Rob van der Laarse is the Westerbork professor in War and Conflict Heritage and Memory at the humanities faculties of VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam. He studied history and anthropology, and graduated and obtained his PhD (both s. cum laude) at the UvA and has been affiliated as staff member with the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, and the UvA's History, Media Studies, and Art and Culture departments. He was also fellow at the European Studies Research Institute (Salford University), Jean Monnet fellow at the European University Institute (Florance), fellow and theme leader at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS), theme leader at the UvA priority program Heritage and Identity (ACHI) and the VU/UvA research centre ACCESS EUROPE (currently ACES and VICES). In the early 2000's he founded the master programs in Heritage and Memory Studies at the UvA, from 2010-2015 headed the CLUE research cluster Heritage and Memory of Conflict and War at VU, and from 2013-2019 he was founding director of the UvA's Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM).
Van der Laarse's research focuses roughly on two domains: Power, Culture and Elites, and Heritage, Memory and Conflict. He published around 100 publications and have been invited approximately to some 200 lectures and keynote talks, and co-organized also a substantial number of international conferences such as The Challenge of Heritage (Amsterdam 2002), The Dynamics of War, Heritage, Memory and Remembrance (Amsterdam 2007), The Archaeology of Terrorscapes (Helsinki 2012), Competing Memories (Amsterdam 2013), and Heritage, Tourism and Hospitality (Amsterdam 2015).
Since his historical-anthropological PhD dissertation Bevoogding en Bevinding,1780-1930 (Paternalism and Piety 1989) on the crucial role of political ritual, elitist power and religious identitarianism as a (Dutch pillarised) road to modernity (awarded with a Praemium Erasmianum research prize 1990), an important part of Rob's research is born from a fascination with the development, interpretation, and representation of culture, power, ritual and narratives in local communities. While exploring the remarkable continuity (and final decline) of aristocracy with the fabrication of the modern Dutch nation state (e.g. A Nation of Notables. Class, Religion and Politics (1999), political democratization and the project of the Enlightenmente cultures and transformation (e.g. Van goeden huize (2001) and Beelden van de buitenplaats (with Yme Kuiper, 2005/ rev.ed. 2014), he became fascinated by topics like the long-term cultural and territorial representation of landed power. For many years Rob explored with students and colleagues fieldtrips and archival research which resulted in publications on the Habsburg-Burgundian courtiers, the 'forgotten' nobility of the Dutch Republic, the 17th c. territorial politics of the Orange King-Stadholder, gardening, physico-theology, art and architecture, the mapping of castles, estates and country houses, and the early19th Brussels-Hague court culture of William II and Anna Pavlova (Bulletin KNOB 2010), which inspired a travelling Dutch-Russian-Luxemburgian exhibition Une Passion Royale: Guillaume II des Pays Bas et Anna Pavlovna (2013-2014).
Another principal area of research concerns Europe's post-Enlightenment search for purity, control, and the fascination and fear of decadence and degeneration in modern art, culture and politics, starting with the book volume De hang naar zuiverheid (co-edited1998) and on Max Nordau's hidden representation of Jewishness (Masking the Other 1999), which traces the cultural roots of 20th c. racism and the Holocaust in cultural complexities far beyond the usual domain of political ideology. Challenged by the EU's 'identity crisis' after the enlargements of 2004/07 and the rise of authoritarian populism, Rob van der Laarse's interest has since then been shifted to conflict heritage, competing memories, and the postmodern legacy of totalitarianism and the Holocaust. He edited a (bilingual) critical heritage studies handbook Bezeten van vroeger (2005), and published widely on heritage theory before focusing more and more on the heritage and memory of the genocidal outcome of modernity's longing for ethno-national purity. The issue of the musealisation, mediatisation, staging and experiencing of war heritage is addressed in a number of Dutch volumes De dynamiek van de herinnering (2009, co-ed with Frank van Vree), his Reinwardt Memorial Lecture De Oorlog als beleving (2010/2011), and inaugural Nooit meer Auschwitz? (2012). Confronted with the new rise of authoritarianism and identitarian calls for ethnic purity, he started a decade ago a critical debate on the unexpected essentialist outcomes of the cultural community and identity narrative and stately heritage practices of UNESCO's Intangible Heritage Convention (Boekman 2011, and recently in Europe's Peat Fire 2019). His 2013 publications Archaeology of Memory and Beyond Auschwitz rethink/reframe the issue of European competing memories, Holocaust dissonances and abuses of the past in the present Age of Post-Memory and Identity. He co-edited Traces of Terror, Signs of Trauma (2014) as one of mamy outcomes of the productive international Terrorscapes in Postwar Europe networking research group. In other publications (e.g. Fatal Attraction (2015) he points at some uneasy relations between Nazi modernism and 'Nordic' landscapes and postmodern Holocaust Memory and the strongly tabood attraction of perpetrator heritage (for which he also acted as academic advisor of the Nazi Design exhibition in Design Museum Den Bosch). As to understand the geopolitical backgrounds of the current crisis of European identity, Van der Laarse co-edited Religion, State Society and Identity in Transition: Ukraine (2015) and critically commented the geopolitical and mnemonic re-mapping of Ukraine and the cultural battle over archaeological findings and public space in the EU's borderlands, like in Who owns the Crimean Past? (2016), and compare for competing Holocaust and other genocide memories in other postcommunist cases my contriibutions to Muséographies des violences en Europe Centrale et ex-URRS (Sorbonne 2016), a keynote address Bones never lie? at the Wiener Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studiën (2015) published in Mapping the Forensic Turn (2017), or an expert interview on the Zwangsarbeit website of CEDIS FU Berlin (2014). Currently he is working on the complex interaction of leftwing and rightwing identitarian narratives in post-1968 public space.
During the past decade Rob was a member of the advisory boards of several museums and heritage organisations, such as the Review Committee of the Heritage of War (Erfgoed van de Oorlog) program of the Ministry of VWS (2007-2010), Theme Year 2012 of the Historical Country House Foundation, Amsterdam Museum, Dutch Castle Foundation (NKS), Rijksgebouwendienst, UvA Heritage Division, the Memorial Centers Camp Westerbork, Camp Amersfoort and National Monument Vught, and trustee of Paradox Foundation (photography and new media productions). With Dirk Mulder and Jan Kolen he initated the Westerbork Archaeological Research Project (2012) a cooperative project of Memorial Camp Westerbork, CLUE-VU and RAAP as part of a wider Holocaust archaeology collaboration. He is consulted as a heritage expert by many Dutch and foreign city and memorial museums, media programs and cultural initiatives, such as the AVRO radio 1 serial Dadererfgoed (perpetrator's heritage, 2008) and the curating city's project Museumtraject Mechelen (2013). Together with archaeologist Ivar Schute he took part in Caroline Sturdy Colls' awarded Furneaux and Edgar productions Unearthing Treblinka (Channel 5, 2013) and Treblinkla: Hitler's Killing Machine (Smithsonnian TV, 2014) on the discovery of the widely discussed Treblinka gas chambers, and he is also regularly asked for public lectures, such as the ICOMOS-UK Annual Christmas Lecture 2014 in London, the Utrecht Studium Generale in 2017, and the 4th Heritage Forum of Central Europe 2017.
Since the early 2000s Rob van der Laarse has been pioneering in heritage studies' research funding, which culminated in several large (inter) national research projects (see the other tab page). In 2016 he received 1.2 million euros from the European HERA-JRP/ ERA-Horizon 2020 Uses of the Past call for the collaborative 4-years project Accessing Campscapes: Inclusive Strategies for Using European Conflicted Heritage (iC-ACCESS) with an international team of fifteen academic and professional partners and five IT companies working together on assessing and experimenting with multivocal digital access to conflict heritage sites in seven European countries as the outcome of a large series of fieldtrips to European memorial campscapes (representing former Nazi and Stalinist terror). In addition, he received the same year another major grant as the UvA lead in the Horizon 2020 5-years Marie-Curie ITN project Critical Heritage Studies and the Future of Europe (CHEurope) of which the Amsterdam team participates in an international doctoral training programme with European key partners in critical heritage studies. In managing these EU projects Van der Laarse could profit from his experience as co-leader (with Frank van Vree) of the NWO research line The Dynamics of Memory (2008-2014), which as a follow-up of a research project funded by the internationally unique 'Heritage of War' program of the Ministry of VWS (for which he was a sworn policy adviser) succeeded in publishing a large number of dissertations and book volumes by means of co-matching with museums and heritage institutes. As an international offspring of these projects Van der Laarse also received an Anglo-Dutch (AHRC-NWO) grant on Landscapes of War and Trauma together with Gilly Car (University of Cambridge), and a NWO grant for his Terrorscapes research project on transnational memory of totalitarian terror and genocide in postwar Europe from Auschwitz to the 1990s Yugoslav Wars; the latter supported with a fellowship and theme group grant (with Georgi Verbeeck) at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) in Wassenaar. This network was awarded the prestigious Premio Euromediterraneo of the Italian Ministry of Culture, Confindustria, and the public media association in Rome 2013 in the category of best practice of transnational communication beyond the national cultural boundaries "that will have a fundamental impact on the building of European citizenship". The around 15 organised research fieldtrips to European campscapes in my subsequent HERA iC-ACCESS project (2016-2020) could thus draw from a strong basis of expertise on conflict sites and competing memories analysis.
Van der Laarse is also a regulator book reviewer of historical and cultural sciences journals, and peer reviewer of international journals, founding co-editor of the Palgrave Studies in Cultural Heritage and Conflict (Palgrave-Macmillan), of Heritage and Memory Studies (Amsterdam University Press) with Saloul and Britt Baillie, and previously of Landscape and Heritage Studies (AUP), as well as a member of the editorial advisory boards of KLEOS (Amsterdam Bulletin for Ancient Studies and Archaeology), Virtus. Journal of Nobility Studies (Verloren) with Yme Kuiper and Hanneke Ronnes, Open Anthropological Research (De Gruyter), and from 2016-2019 Accessing Campscapes E-Journal (with Zuzanna Dziuban) and co-founding editor of its successor Heritage, Memory and Conflict Journal (HMS) to be launched Fall 2020.
Van der Laarse teaches at the UvA and VU University in Amsterdam, and supervises internships, tutorials, BA honours and MA theses, and PhD research on heritage and memory, museology and landscape studies, terrorscapes, competing memories and conflict heritage. See the Courses tab for more information.
During his career Rob van der Laarse has been granted more than 5 million euros research funding, and supervises/d some 20 PhD projects at different universities. See the Research tab for more information.
He is also regularly asked as research evaluator and assessor for NWO, RCN (Norway research council), HERA and JPICH, as PhD thesis supervisor and examiner at Dutch and foreign universities, and he was also the honorary promotor (with Pim den Boer) of Charlotte van Rappard at the dies natalis celebration of the University of Amsterdam January 2015 (for her work on the international heritage treaties and the restitution of WWII's stolen Jewish art).
Prof. dr. R. van der Laarse
University of Amsterdam, Art and Culture Department, BG 2 Campus, room 1.11, Turfdraagsterpad 15
1012 XT Amsterdam
University of Amsterdam, Postbus 94551
1090 GN Amsterdam
Most of my teaching is related to the heritage and memory (dual) master programs at the UvA and VU University of Amsterdam. I am also supervising tutorials, BA honors, and MA theses on heritage and memory studies, cultural history and cultural studies, focusing on themes like European terrorscapes and competing memories, landscapes of power, elites and aristocracy, purity and modernity, war heritage and Holocaust memory, conflict heritage and heritage of conflict, spatial-digital mapping and experience design, authenticity and identity, commodification and uses/abuses of the past, heritagescapes and memoryscapes.
Terrorscapes in Postwar Europe: competing memories and narratives, Holocaust and occupation paradigms in a context of EU enlargements and crisis. Lecture at the Seminar ‘Muséographie des violences en Europe centrale et ex-URSS’, Paris-Sorbonne, May 2014
Visies op een stadsmuseum: Yves Desmet (Hoofdredacteur De Morgen), Bruno De Wever (Prof. Dr. Geschiedenis UGent), Rob van der Laarse (Prof.Dr.Geschiedenis-Antropologie UV Amsterdam), Chris Dercon (Directeur Tate Modern Leuven), Dirk De Wachter (Psychiater-Psychotherapeut). Youtube @ Museumtraject Mechelen 2013
Video interviews (English) with Rob van der Laarse, Robert Jan van Pelt and others on the making and meaning of Auschwitz-Birkenau as Europe's iconic Terrorscape (Paradox production, Thomas Vroege and Zhenia Sveshinsky, NIAS January 2013)
Van der Laarse is (was) Project Leader of the following granted, collaborative research lines, programs and projects:
Van der Laarse was honorary promotor (with prof.dr. Pim den Boer) of Charlotte van Rappard at the dies natalis celebration of the University of Amsterdam in January 2015, honored for her contribution to international treaties on cultural heritage, illegal trade, and the research and restitution of WW II's stolen Jewsh art.