Dr. Marleen de Witte joined the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in January 2013. She previously held research and teaching positions at the VU University and Université de Poitiers. She holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of Amsterdam (2008).
Marleen’s main anthropological research interests are religion and media, globalization, the senses and the body, cultural heritage, popular culture, urban Africa and African diaspora. Her current project, titled ‘African by Design: self-styling among Afro-Dutch youth in Amsterdam,’ was awarded a VENI grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research NWO. The project explores how and why second-generation Africans (mainly Ghanaians) and Afro-Caribbeans (Surinamese, Antilleans) produce Africanness in media and expressive culture and how Afro styles are appropriated or contested in everyday practices of self-styling and incorporated into new forms of Dutchness.
Marleen has conducted extensive fieldwork in Ghana. Her PhD project studied the use of modern media by charismatic Christianity and neo-traditional African religion, and the processes and challenges involved in the mediatization of religion. Theoretically situated at the crossroads of media, religion, and the senses, the research explored the generation, spread, and adoption of new, mass-mediated forms of religion in Ghana’s new public sphere and compared how media reconfigure the sensory mediation of religious experience in both religions. She discovered that both religions are much closer entangled than their media expressions might suggest at first sight. In 2012 she received the Keetje Hodshon Award from the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen for her dissertation ‘Spirit Media: Charismatics, Traditionalists, and Mediation Practices in Ghana’ and her other publications.
Marleen’s more recent research in Ghana studied the politics and aesthetics of Africanness in cultural heritage formations in Ghana, focusing on the intersecting domains of the state, religion, and media. This project, ‘Styling Sankofa,’ was part of the NWO project ‘Heritage Dynamics: Politics of Authentication and Aesthetics of Persuasion in Ghana, South-Africa, Brazil, and the Netherland’ (www.heritage-dynamics.com). A remarkable outcome was the revitalization and commercialization of African heritage as creative style among young people in Accra, spreading via media and popular culture and closely connected to ‘global Africa.’
Marleen is co-editor of the anthropological journal Etnofoor (www.etnofoor.nl).