State of the Art in Political History and Positioning your project

A report from Eveliene Veen on the first module of the OPG PhD training Program.

On 13 October 2023, we, the new PhD cohort, had the joy of experiencing our first module of the OPG curriculum. It proved to be an intense and fulfilling day of getting to know one another, discussions and conversations. In preparation for the meeting we had to bring an object that symbolized the question ‘what drives us as scholars/historians’. A question that I at first found challenging (initially no object came to mind), but in the end proved to be a really nice way to think about what drives us and to get to know one another. (Since my own research is set in the 1970s and I have an interest in analogue photography I decided to bring a 35 mm film role).

After this introduction we started with a discussion on the ‘norms for a professional historian’ led by prof. Henk te Velde (Leiden University). We especially talked about the topic of ‘respecting different perspectives’ and when or if there is a point where one can draw a line when these perspectives become to ‘extreme’. In the afternoon, together with prof. Ido de Haan (Utrecht University), we pondered the question of where we position our own research in the field of political history. A lively discussion unfolded where we furthermore discussed the concepts (de)politicization and (de)legitimization. During this discussion the diversity of our research topics, and especially topics that are not situated in Western Europe or North America, challenged the way of how to look at for instance the concept of (de)politicization.

Not only did the module proved to be of high value, the conversations we had during the brake and the ‘borrel’ afterwards were just as important and valuable. As an external PhD student (and from what I heard this does not only count for external PhD candidates) I tend to feel a bit isolated from time to time. This day was a day where I could connect with people in similar situations, talk with people with the same questions and insecurities and just exchange general experiences. I, and I think my cohort fellows as well, are very much looking forward to the upcoming modules, discussions and conversations.