Petra van Dam
Petra J.E.M. van Dam is one of the main experts in the field of ecological (or environmental) history in Europe. As vice-chair of the European Society for Environmental History she contributed to establishing the ESEH Summer schools, she was the organizer of the ESEH Amsterdam 2007 Conference, ‘Global Perspectives.’ She co-founded the book series ‘The Environment in History: International Perspective’ (Berghahn Publishers, Oxford-New York) together with Russia specialist Prof. dr. David Moon (York University, GB), Prof. dr. Christof Mauch and Prof. dr. Helmut Trischler (directors of the Rachel Carson Center for Environmental Studies, München). She is also an editorial committee member of the scholarly Journal Environment and History (Cambridge). At the VU she holds the Chair for Water and Environmental History in the Faculty of Humanities, Department of History, funded by the Schilthuisfonds. She is co-founder of the Environmental Humanities Center at this Faculty.
She is convinced that currently, after decades of growing awareness among ever larger groups, generally consensus exists about the urgency of environmental and sustainability issues. One feels this most strongly among university students. Their questions are directed towards investigating ‘historical imaginaries’, finding solutions and models of behaviour and political decisions in the past, that will lead to more sustainable ways of living in the future. Her research interests are assessing the balance between the natural and human agency in environmental change and studying the resilience vulnerability of societies to natural disasters. Petra van Dam and her students wrote some 10 books and 80 scholarly and general articles. Her latest book is Van Amsterdams peil naar Europees referentiepeil. De geschiedenis van het NAP tot 2018 (2018) [The history of the Amsterdam Vertical Reference Level]. Her upcoming book is Swimming Rabbits. An Amphibious Society dealing with Environmental Change. Read an interview here (in Dutch) with Petra by the student journal Skript.
Payam Fakhraei is in his final year of Literature and Contested Spaces program. Previously, he has obtained his Bachelor degree in English Literature from UC Berkeley. He is interested in the logic of coloniality and his research is focused on the entanglement of climate, technology, and humanity in the literature that was written during the Industrial Revolution.
Sadie is studying for the Environmental Humanities track of the RMa Literature and Contested Spaces, with a particular interest in multispecies approaches. She also works as the student assistant to the Environmental Humanities Centre, co-organising the online events series ENTANGLEMENTS (2020-2021). Sadie holds degrees in English Literature and Gender Studies. Before coming to VU, she worked as a bookseller and a freelance writer.
Sjoerd Kluiving currently holds the position of assistant professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, working in the fields of geoarchaeology, Quaternary geology and landscape archaeology. Since 2016 he teaches the course Environmental Archaeology at Amsterdam University College. Sjoerd earned his BSc and MSc in Physical Geography and Glacial Geology at the University of Amsterdam in 1986 and 1989, and his PhD in Geology at the University of Alabama (US) in 2001, where he specialised in subglacial processes in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.
Sjoerd coordinates 15 PhD candidates in the EU Horizon 2020 Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Project: MSCA-ITN-TERRANOVA (2019-2023). This project researches previous and future energy regimes in Europe, combining geology, archaeology, ecology, (palaeo)climatology, landscape management and rewilding. It is also a co-applicant in the funded NWO-project ‘What went into the melting pot? (2019-2023), with 2 PhD candidates in geoarchaeology and palaeobotany, and a post-doc on pottery practices in the period 1000-500 BC in the Mediterranean area.
Sjoerd leads the International Association of Landscape Archaeology (IALA), uniting geologists, archaeologists and historians. He has vast experience in convening interdisciplinary sessions in soils, landscapes and archaeology at EGU, EAA and LAC, and is guest editor of multiple special volumes dedicated to this theme. Sjoerd is co-supervising 4 PhD students in the field of landscape archaeology on the interface of archaeology and the earth sciences. Besides his teaching position, he has a research and consulting company in earth sciences and works for government agencies and archaeological companies. Sjoerd has a special interest in interdisciplinary collaboration between nature and culture and Anthropocene studies.
Katja Kwastek is professor of modern and contemporary art history at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research focuses on processual, digital and post-digital art, media history, theory and aesthetics, and digital humanities. Under the notion of ‘slow media art’, she researches artworks which explores the interrelations of human and non-human, technological, cultural and biological timeframes. The concept of slowness has recently been significantly broadened towards a more metaphorical understanding, which does encompass questions of sustainability and a rehabilitation of the local (c.f. the popular notion of ‘slow food’). In 2004, Katja Kwastek curated the first international exhibition and conference project on “Art and Wireless Communication”. She has lectured internationally and published many books and essays, including her most recent “Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art” (MIT Press, 2013).
Dániel is a PhD-candidate within the NWO-sponsored project Coping with Drought: An Environmental History of Drinking Water and Climate Adaptation in the Netherlands, led by Petra van Dam. Within this project, he researches how urban societies in the eastern Netherlands coped with severe droughts and water shortages in the period from 1500-1900. He holds BA-degrees in History and Philosophy as well as a MA-degree in Classical, Medieval and Early Modern studies from the University of Groningen. Prior to his PhD-project at the VU, he was employed at his alma mater as an assistant lecturer and researcher in early modern history (1500-1800). His main research interests are within the field of socio-cultural and environmental history, and in the past he has researched and published on topics such as conflict and crisis management in the early modern period, transregional history, and the history of early modern science and medicine from a social and cultural perspective.
Tim Renders is a first year Research Master student in Visual Arts, Media and Architecture at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He graduated from his Bachelor Media, Art, Design and Architecture last year and wrote his thesis on artworks that relate to environmental issues and sustainability. He is especially interested in the relationship between art, sustainability and environmental activism and would like to develop more knowledge on these intersections.
Luke is an RMA student in global history. He holds a bachelor of arts from the University of Cape Town with a double major in environmental science and economic history. In addition, he completed a postgraduate honours degree in history from the University of Western Australia. Luke’s primary research interest is the history of capitalism as it pertains to the transformation of the environment, particularly in (post)colonial regions. Before commencing his studies at the VU, Luke worked as a gardener in Australia where he cultivated a passion for permaculture design.
Gizem is a RMA student in Literature and Contested Spaces, following the Environmental Humanities track. Previously, they studied Comparative Literature as well as Media & Visual Arts in Koc University, Istanbul. Emphasising an interdisciplinary approach, Gizem is particularly interested in the intersections of queer theory and ecology. Recently, they have been trying to incorporate artistic approaches to their research and read as many comics as possible. They also work as a communications consultant for UN Women.
Kristine Steenbergh is lecturer and researcher in English literature at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research focuses on the early modern period (1500-1700), the history of emotions, and ecocriticism. She is a board member and webmaster of the Benelux Association for the Study of Art, Culture and the Environment (BASCE). Kristine has taught several courses in ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities, focusing on topics ranging from the relations between humans and nature in the early modern period to an RMA Environmental Humanities course focused on the corona virus as a case study.
Former board members
Julia Kantelberg was Research Master student in Visual Arts, Media and Architecture at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and graduated in 2019. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media, Art, Design and Architecture with a specialisation in design. Her interest goes out to the relationship between design, ethics and environmental issues. She wishes to continue her research in this cross-disciplinary field.
Stephanie was a Research Master student in the Humanities with a specialisation in Literature and Contested Spaces at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (graduated in 2020). Before that, she graduated from her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Zurich in English Literature and Linguistics and Film Studies. Throughout her studies she has developed an interest in the relationship between geographies, movement/migration, identity and representation. Her research focused on the interactions between storytelling and the environment.
Joëlle Koorneef was student-assistant of the Environmental Humanities Center (2019-20). She graduated as a Humanities Research Master student with a specialisation in Literature and Contested Spaces at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 2020. Joëlle graduated from University College Roosevelt with a Bachelor of Arts in religion, antiquity, and literature. She is interested in studying the way that language and narrative shape our compassion for animals. As a scuba diver, she appreciates marine biodiversity and is concerned for the decline thereof. As part of her job as student-assistant she helped organise the Transitions Workshop in fall 2019.
Ankie was an MA student Heritage Studies and Design Cultures who has a special interest in urban history and sustainable urban development. She did research on new developments in sustainable heritage management in the UNESCO zone of Amsterdam, and worked for the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on the Week of the Vacant Building – heritage redevelopment publication (February 2018).
Sarah Rodrigues was enrolled in the MSc Environment and Resource Management programme at Vrije Universiteit and is a part-time vegan Pastry Chef. She has a FdA in Art & Design from Central Saint Martins in London and a BA in Liberal Arts & Sciences from Amsterdam University College. Her academic interests include art, film, philosophy, anthropology and environmental studies. Her master thesis research was focused on medicinal plant businesses and sustainable rural economic development in Portugal, and will be published as an audio-visual essay on-line. She is interested in pursuing an interdisciplinary career in (artistic) research, environmental consultancy and project management.