Ethnology (Meertens Instituut)

Ethnological research at the Meertens Institute focuses on the Netherlands as a diverse society that is constantly in flux. In an era characterized by mobility, connectedness, and (virtual) networks, people continuously give new meaning to their place and their role in the world, as well as to that what they experience as belonging to themselves or to the “other”.

Ethnological research in theory

As a consequence, questions regarding culture, identity, authenticity, nationalism, ethnicity and multicultural society have become all the more relevant. These processes of identification, inclusion and exclusion, and diversity not only come into play in politics and discourse, but are equally relevant in the culture of everyday life of ordinary people.

Views on religion, cultural heritage, migration, the European Union, globalization, high versus low culture, the distinction between urban and rural space, health, the cultural elite versus the general population: these all take shape in everyday interactions. This is why ethnological research primarily focuses on everyday practices, rituals, objects, images, music and stories.

The research is interdisciplinary and qualitative, primarily using ethnographic, historical, and comparative methods. In addition to participant observation and interviews, archives, social media, questionnaires, and surveys are the most important sources of research.

Everyday life in a conceptual framework

With the focus on the everyday life, the ethnology research at the Meertens Institute aims at contributing to the development of a conceptual framework that reflects recent theorizing in the fields of postcolonial studies, emotions, material culture, religion and secularism, heritage studies and oral culture.

This conceptual framework makes it possible to contribute to current debates and developments in society from a critical perspective and in turn, to participate in shaping a resilient society able to reflect upon itself, as envisioned by the European Union who declared 2018 the “European Year of Cultural Heritage”.

Role of the Meertens Institute

The ethnological research is intrinsically international, and so is the Meertens Institute’s orientation. Being the only ethnology institute in the Netherlands and as such a long-term and well-known research hub to the international community, it plays a central coordinating role within the international ethnological society SIEF (Societé Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore / International Society for Ethnology and Folklore).


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Partner IISG Partner Meertens Instituut Partner Huygens ING