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The conclusion of Human Work – Humanities Lab

Friday October 24th Honours students had to present their case studies on a topical issue related to Humanities. All Honours students made posters in pairs of two and had to defend their case in front of an audience at the Old Observatory. It was a tense experience, since they were being graded by the other attendees. The presentations would conclude Human Work, the orientation module of Humanities Lab, one of the Honours Programmes. Three pairs were eager to share their experiences. They presented on diverse subjects: women in high-ranking positions, the mathematical nature of art and the conception of time.

Women in high-ranking positions

Emma Stolker and Inger Wesseling both study history and were interested in the female quota for high positions and the public debate surrounding this topic. Inger: “Despite an astronomically high percentage of women attending university – or higher education in general – there are few women in high-ranking positions.” Emma continues: “We are very interested in the social side of this phenomenon and looked into the history of female representation in the past, female empowerment and participation in higher education.”

Both emphasise the topicality and the role of the Humanities. Inger: “We stumbled upon the subject while reading the newspaper. KPN has recently abolished their female quota and is looking into different methods to encourage women into high-ranking positions. Hopefully we can contribute to this public debate.”

Is art mathematical?

Anna Adima and Kathrin Harb are enrolled in International Studies together in The Hague. They decided to investigate the presence of maths in culture – more specifically in arts, literature (poetry and prose). Anna: “We came to the conclusion that writers and artists combine maths and arts or literature to create something that is aesthetically pleasing and to be appreciated by all. It shows how interdisciplinary everything we see around us is.”

Kathrin, or Kathy, continues: “The divisions have become so entrenched within universities, academies, colleges and school. You have a science faculty and a humanities faculty, and there aren’t many links between the two anymore... So we thought we would try and combine the two!” They enjoy being able to work together with students from other disciplines. Anna: “In discussions we get other views from people from other disciplines, so that makes for more lively and interesting debates.”

The construction of time

Rosa de Luis and Simren Herm-Singh both study International Studies and have a soft spot for philosophy. The two were struggling with their heavy workload, and ended up theorising about the conception of time. Rosa: “Time is hard to grasp; we’re constantly surrounded by it, but at the same time we live with it. We decided to question in which ways you can approach time, and how time has evolved throughout history.” Simren continues: “We’re really free with Humanities Lab. We could really dive into a topic that fascinates us. It was an interesting experience.”

Rosa emphasises the practicality of her discipline, but notes: “We ought to think about what we do in a deeper sense. Since Humanities Lab has a philosophical approach, it would give us the deeper philosophical thinking we need to understand those practical issues of International Studies. It challenges you to develop your theoretical thinking capacities.”


Situated in the quaint lounge of the Old Observatory, it was a cosy and accessible experience. The bright posters made for an uplifted and colourful environment, and there was ample opportunity for discussion.

Other subjects included Technology in a future without Humanities by Yidan Li and Hannah van den Bosch, Jihadgangers: the right term? By Hein Koster and Maithe van Luijk and Gentrification of the modern Orient by Lauren Hulsen and Lotte Pet. Afterwards, all attendees were invited for drinks at the Faculty Club. All in all, it was a pleasant and successful afternoon.

(29 October 2014/AS)

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