About Us

We are a group of researchers at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University who are interested in the exploration of the role of the future(s) (learn more about the project by clicking here). Over the years our original team has expanded and we are glad to have multiple other colleagues from within and outside Leiden University join our regular reading and discussion meetings. Here’s who we are and where our interests lie.

 Prof. Peter Pels is the principal researcher of the project. He became professor in the anthropology of sub-Saharan Africa at the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of the University of Leiden after graduating in social anthropology at the University of Amsterdam (1993) on a study of Catholicism in East Africa, and working at the Research Centre Religion and Society of the University of Amsterdam between 1995 and 2003.He is a specialist in the study of religion and politics in situations of colonial contact (A Politics of Presence. Contacts between Missionaries and Waluguru in Late Colonial Tanganyika, Chur/Reading, 1999), the history of anthropology (Colonial Subjects [ed. with Oscar Salemink], Ann Arbor, 1999), the anthropology of magic (Magic and Modernity [ed. with Birgit Meyer], Stanford, 2003), and social science ethics (Embedding Ethics [ed. with Lynn Meskell], New York, 2005).He was the editor-in-chief of Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale, the journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, from 2003 until 2007. He supervises research on religion and cyberculture, the comparative study of images of the future, colonial photography and cinematic representation, water conservation and natural heritage, brand advertising and nationalism, and is an advisor on religion and materiality to the Çatalhöyük Research Project, led by archaeologist Ian Hodder, since 2006. He is currently finishing a book entitled The Spirit of Matter. Religion, Modernity and the Power of Objects.
Prof. Chris Goto-Jones (Japan Studies): “Beyond Utopia: the Political Futurities of the Science Fictional Field of Japan” and VICI project “Beyond Utopia: New Politics, the Politics of Knowledge, and the Science Fictional Field of Japan”
Her research focuses on the anthropology of globalization, democracy and social movements. Specifically, her research examines the decision-making practices within the alterglobalization movement, the 15 May movement and Occupy to explore the implications these practices have for contemporary assumptions about democracy and democratic values.
Her research examines prefiguration as a strategic movement practice and raises questions about what happens to democratic values when they are practiced on a global scale through network structures instead of the nation-state. Her insights on prefiguration have been very instructive for this project (see the article here).

Dr. Bart Barendregt (Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology) has an interest in popular and digital culture, and has published on and made films on Southeast Asian performing arts, new and mobile media, and (Islamic) pop music. He is currently working on a book dealing with Islamist boy band music and the mixing of religion, youth culture and politics that has become so popular among Malaysian and Indonesian student activists.Within the NWO project “The Future is Elsewhere” Bart is looking at Islamic ideas and ideals of the Information society, halal software and appropriation and localization of digital technology in an overt religious context. Here is an interesting article titled “Muslim Futurities in Southeast Asia” Bart wrote about technological futures. Inspirational for the project has also been his article ‘Diverse Digital Worlds’ published in the Digital anthropology (2012, Horst, Miller ed.)

Dr. Dorien Zandbergen (postdoc, Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology).

For her PhD research Dorien Zandbergen studied the way in which the “Information Society” in California was shaped since WWII by the intersecting practices and ideologies of the human potential movement-inspired counterculture and the tech-hobbyist scenes.

Her current research focuses on the question to what extent the “Californian Ideology” has found a home in Europe. Cross-cutting the domains of policy-making, technology creation, art, education and various types of activism Dorien studies what forms of anticipation and resistance are projected onto technology in different urban European settings. The ultimate aim of this research is to make explicit the politics of these future-driven negotiations. When technological futures are negotiated, what is also brought into the world are notions of what it means to be human, what bodies are, how power is held, what kinds of knowledge and skills are deemed important and ultimately, who is given a future and who is not.

MSc. Zane Kripe (PhD candidate) explores the practices of technology enthusiasts in Southeast Asia, in particular Singapore, where successful development of knowledge economy is seen as the only way to ensure the future of the country in the volatile global economy. Following the quest of building ‘Asian technology for Asia’ and the ‘Silicon Valleys of Southeast Asia’, Zane examines the position of budding technology entrepreneurs in relation to state, economy and globalization, paying particular attention to the creation and development of technology companies. At the intersections of business, finance and technology cultures she explores how people try to make their futures and understand their position in the world. 
MA Andrea Cerda studied Sociology at the Universidad Católica de Chile, were she researched emerging communities in local web portals, as well as prison labor programs aiming at “rehabilitation” through work practice, as final (Licenciate) thesis topics (2000). For her MA in Social Sciences at the UvA (2003) she studied social and political participation practices of Chilean youth after the dictatorship and the flaws in policies intended to encourage those practices. Next, she conducted a MA research project in Cultural Anthropology at Leiden (2009), which focused on the ethical dilemmas experienced by volunteers/consumers coming to India to participate in volunteer programs. Currently she is doing her Ph.D. on the production of the Chilean Exhibit for the World Fair at Shanghai, 2010 and follows the exhibitional practices involved in the national Expo experience. In her Ph.D. she reflects on the influence of branding techniques in the way national communities are being imagined today.
Dr. Erik Bähre is an economic anthropologist specialized in South Africa. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork, as well as conducted surveys, in the townships and squatter settlements of Cape Town. His main research interest is how dramatic economic changes affect social relations, and particularly why they cause particular tensions within households, among kin and neighbours. He has done research on financial mutuals among neighbours and migrants, on the provision of commercial insurances, social grants, and entrepreneurship.

In 2002 Erik Bähre completed his PhD at the ASSR (now AISSR) at the University of Amsterdam. He has worked at the University of Natal (now University of KwaZulu Natal) (1999-2000), University College Utrecht (2002-2005) and at the University of Amsterdam (2004-2007). He was researcher at the department of anthropology at theLondon School for Economics and Political Science, taking part in a Economic and Social Research Council funded research project on economic change in South Africa. He has been awarded a KNAW NIAS fellowship that enables him to write a monograph manuscript on insurances in South Africa (2011-2012).

 Drs. Janine Prins is the coordinator & lecturer for the Visual Methods BA and summer course.

She graduated from the National Film and Television School in England as documentary filmmaker (1990-94) after she graduated from  Leiden University as visual anthropologist in 1986, and has worked for television companies in various capacities.

Janine has been affiliated with Leiden University since 2009 as part of her self-employed life as an education professional, with regular customers such as Utrecht School of the Arts, Stenden University, and the Nederlandse Film en Televisie Academie.

She is currently engaged in a multimedia research project on cultural heritage and social cohesion in a European migratory context, studying co-creation techniques and other design methods together  with broadcaster HUMAN, the Waag Society medialab, and Museum Volkenkunde. This project is meant to be part of her PhD research, subject to grants being awarded.

In 2007 she received the Erasmus Euromedia Sponsorship Award for ‘Expeditie Europa’, an innovative crossmedia project for Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad


Dr. Annemarie Samuels is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam. In 2012 she completed her PhD dissertation that focused on the remaking of everyday life after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 in Aceh, Indonesia. One of the conclusions from that project is that the disaster increased imaginations of the future that included socio-economic development and the sense that the end of the world was imminent.

Annemarie Samuels’ current research project combines a political-economy approach with a phenomenological perspective to look at the moral politics of “the body” in Aceh and North-Sumatra. In recent years, social and political anxiety about gender, sexuality, drugs and HIV/AIDS is increasing in these areas and by exploring these particular issues this research project explores how a moralist politics is shaped through the body, both discursively and in everyday practice, and what possibilities remain for imagining alternatives. Many of the questions raised in this project center on issues of temporality.

In relation to the topic of “futurities” the research asks: What does the future look like in a situation in which the moment of radical political change seems to be closing, and in which the social anxiety about “wrong bodies” is on the rise? What horizons and what possibilities for imagining different futures remain? And how are these possibilities, necessarily, entangled with a past of colonialism, conflict, and Acehnese nationalism?

 Prof. dr. Shamsul AB (Director, Institute for Ethnic Studies (KITA), the National University of Malaysia (UKM): co-supervisor of AIO.



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