News, Projects, Events

Understanding Islam is more important than ever for anyone living, studying or interested in contemporary Rotterdam. Recently, Erasmus Magazine joined one of my seminars in which we explore the political history of Islam through iconic buildings.

I argue that it is impossible to talk sensibly about the religion or politics of Islam without familiarising yourself with its civilisational history. Alas, no course runs long enough to cover the successive dynasties of the rich Islamic political history and its vast geographic scope. One solution then could be to use artefacts (or language or any other prism) to highlight how the universe of Islam is, in fact, not one single world but many worlds at the same time –with plenty of diversity and overlapping influences.

By combining history and politics with architecture, this course explores the main periods of Islamic political history by connecting each timeframe to iconic buildings of that era. Looking at the evolution of Islamic political history from this interdisciplinary perspective rooted both in social sciences and humanities enables students to gain a better understanding of Islam, its main actors, its internal diversity and its specific terminology.

Image credits: Pauline Wiersema.

 In January 2022, I was awarded a fellowship from Erasmus University’s Community for Learning and Innovation to (re)specify the meanings of critical citizenship. With a small team, I intend to develop an inventory of critical citizenship approaches, skills and exercises that can help teachers and students to gain a better understanding of the term.

In early April 2022, Muslims worldwide united in celebrating the Islamic month of Ramadan 1443. This period of mental and physical purification comes with many rituals and gatherings, also in Rotterdam.

Since Erasmus University College strives to educate citizens with a global mindset, it cannot afford to ignore global phenomena like Ramadan. We decided, therefore, to celebrate Ramadan by organizing two events aimed at collective learning and at widening our community.

On Wednesday 30 March 2022 we hosted a mini symposium on Ramadan and Sustainability aimed at EUC staff and students curious about Ramadan, its significance and about Muslim perspectives on sustainability.

A week later, on Wednesday 6 April, we hosted a public iftar (communal meal to break the fast) at EUC with several of our partners and societal stakeholders. An imam explained the meanings of Ramadan before we shared a table.

See the coverage in Erasmus Magazine or a short post.

What do local citizens understand by ‘accountability’? How do local activists mobilize fellow citizens? How do they get those in power to commit to providing the information/service? And do activists succeed in exacting accountability at all, and to what extent? What is the role of external donors and actors in fostering or undermining stronger state-society relations?

After more than a decade after the “Arab Spring”, we come together to review the efforts to strengthen the relations between the citizens and the States. This seminar will analyze the findings on reports for social accountabilities initiatives in Morocco, Tunisia, and Lebanon. We aim to answer the research question: “What does accountability look like for the people on the ground?”.

The seminar will be moderated by Sylvia I. Bergh (Center of Expertise/THUAS and ISS/Erasmus University) and Ward Vloeberghs (Erasmus University College/EUC). Joining us as presenters are Hicham Jadaoun (Lebanon), Intissar Kherigi and Tasnim Chirchi (Tunisia) and Francesco Colin (Morocco, and PhD researcher at ISS).

The findings of this event later culminated in this blogpost featured by the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI).

On 29 September 2021, students from Willem de Kooning Academy and Erasmus University College Rotterdam held a joint session dedicated to small-scale change. Students collaborated in small groups to discuss a contemporary societal issue and a corresponding civil society actor of their choice:
– Consensual sex by Amnesty International

– Climate change by OxfamNovib

– Fragility by Cordaid

– Fair fashion by INretail

We asked students to explore the actor’s main cause and its target audience based on the input provided by each actor. After this identification exercise, we then challenged students to set up a small-scale intervention (performance/street interviews/public manifestation) to stimulate dialogue about the societal issue covered by the partner organization.

Eventually, students prepared short videos to stimulate dialogue about a societal issue of concern to them, in order to engage and raise awareness among a wider public.

Since 2019, my colleague Jop Dispa and I have launched a pilot course on critical citizenship with students of the School of International Relations in Tehran, Iran. Due to the covid19 pandemic we organised a digital academic exchange programme. Students took the lead in hosting online presentations and discussions on topics themed around governance, society, culture, geopolitics, and economy.

Naar aanleiding van de val van lang zittende presidenten in Algerije (A. Bouteflika) en Soedan (O. al-Bashir) nodigde Geert Maarse me uit voor een gesprek in Studio Erasmus. Het interview ontwikkelde zich tot een gesprek over belangrijke actoren in de regio en hun machtsverhoudingen.

In the run-up to the municipal elections of March 2018 in Rotterdam, I prepared and participated in a series of televised debates bringing together politicians and scholars. Each of these debates was broadcasted on OPEN Rotterdam, a local channel.