The Newsletter 91 Spring 2022

Paul van der Velde and IIAS

Philippe Peycam

For many of us, it is difficult to imagine IIAS without Paul van der Velde. Still, from November 2021, due to his retirement, he is no longer officially an institute staff member. Luckily, Paul will continue to be associated with IIAS as an affiliated researcher, and we will continue to see him and enjoy his perennial upbeat spirit.

I would like to take this opportunity to pause for a minute and reflect on Paul's achievements and contributions to IIAS. His name has been closely connected with the institute's development from its very inception. Many initiatives for which IIAS is known were either pioneered by Paul or have his unique imprint on them. Off the top of my head, I can think of The Newsletter, IIAS's book series, and of course, the International Convention for Asia Scholars (ICAS). Whether factually his 'baby' or not, ICAS conferences as they have developed since the first event in Leiden in 1998 to the recent online one in Kyoto would not have taken place if they hadn't been formulated in Paul's creative mind. In every ICAS event, a sheer number of innovations – from the book talks to the multi-lingual book prizes – bear Paul's signature.

The story of Paul van der Velde at IIAS is one of a relentless churning of ideas, some brilliant, some, perhaps, less so. His involvement guaranteed that every year, every event would be different from the previous one. Along with this whirlpool of ideas are the hundreds of individuals who benefited from his assistance, notably in publishing their book or article or in another capacity. Paul's love for published works and his curiosity for new written materials are boundless.

Having worked with him for more than a decade, I have learned to value his contagious enthusiasm and willingness to always try something new. Some images are now burned in my memory, such as the epic Indian Ocean Studies roundtable in the crumbling foyer of the Africa House building in Zanzibar in 2018 and the much larger Africa-Asia conference in Dar es Salaam one week later. In the same year, there was also an exciting short visit to Moscow where we caught a glimpse of the remains of the cold-war era as we tried to garner support among our Russian colleagues so they would overcome their initial suspicions before participating in ICAS 11 in Leiden. No less exciting were our jaunts together in the vibrant madness of Rio de Janeiro to work with our Latin American colleagues in outlining plans for a new Latin America-Asia collaborative platform.

Outside of IIAS, in 2016, he was awarded Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau, amongst others, for his involvement as editor-in-chief of Zeeuws Tijdschrift, a magazine dedicated to the history of his dear region of Zeeland; we affectionately call him “Sir Paul.”

IIAS has greatly benefitted from Paul's unique style of engagement, and equally, IIAS, for Paul, has been a space where he could realise his dreams and wishes in the way he imagined them. I don't think he would have been able to work as happily elsewhere, which is a testimony to the Institute's capacity to let its members flourish to full potential. On behalf of all my colleagues, I want to thank Paul for all that he has done and for his positive influence on the culture of IIAS. I am glad to know that he will continue to inspire us in his new role.