The Newsletter 91 Spring 2022

Join the new Leiden Anthropology of Asia Network!

Erik de Maaker

Leiden University has many anthropologists working on Asia, spread across different faculties and institutes. Besides the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, this includes the Leiden Institute for Area Studies, the Van Vollenhoven Institute, and the International Institute for Asian Studies. Until fairly recently, the Leiden University Profile Area ‘Asian Modernities and Traditions’ (2011-2018) played a significant role in creating bridges between scholars located across Leiden University; AMT facilitated high-profile lectures and workshops and fostered and enabled new research initiatives. Its demise has created a lacuna not filled by the new Institutional Profiles that have been instated since.

To address the real and dire need for new institution-wide Asia oriented initiatives, the CADS Research Cluster Asia has created the 'Leiden Anthropology of Asia Network' (the RC Asia is one of the five Research Clusters of the CADS Institute). In a very well attended online network meeting across five break-out groups, held in December 2021, we discussed how we might create synergy to our research and strengthen collaborations with academic colleagues spread out across the rapidly growing number of academic institutions in Asia. While many participants are anthropologists by discipline, the event also included colleagues from closely related fields such as history and political science. Participants at the meeting indicated that they wanted more peer-level academic interaction. Also, they expressed the need for a new institution-wide initiative that can increase the impact of the important contributions Leiden University can make to the Anthropology of Asia. Such institutional support can significantly strengthen the global impact of research done, in line with the ambition of Leiden University to deliver academic education and produce knowledge with a truly global reach.

Network ambitions

Leiden Anthropology has a very long history of contributing to cultural knowledge production about Asia. Anthropology, as a discipline, proceeds from the premise that adopting a comparative perspective can create insights into how categories and concepts are embedded in specific societal contexts. But what academic knowledge constitutes and how it is taught continues to change over time, and it requires further revision to reflexively engage with the inequalities that mar today’s world. Engaging with issues such as these, the Leiden Anthropology of Asia Network, specifically, aims to make an active contribution to decolonising academia.

The network wants to create a lively community of scholars that, through (among others) brown bag talks, reading groups, and perhaps story-sharing seminars, is conducive to redefining connections to Asia in what will hopefully be soon a post-pandemic world. We also intend to share grant opportunities, inform each other about new research projects, and share opportunities for international exchange and cooperation. Our initial event was a great starting point for reinvigorating connections. It brought out the wealth of disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise on Asia in Leiden.

Would you like to join our network? Please contact the CADS Research Cluster Asia!

Asia Research Cluster, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology

Leiden Anthropology Blog: ‘Anthropologies of and with Asia, at Leiden University’


Dr Erik de Maaker is Associate Professor at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Leiden University and coordinator of the Asian Borderlands Research Network (ABRN-IIAS).