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Introducing: Sjang ten Hagen & Kim Hajek

Sjang ten Hagen and Kim Hajek joined the Institute for History in February 2021, both as a Postdoctoral Researcher. They introduce themselves below!

Sjang ten Hagen

Hi new colleagues! My name is Sjang. Born and raised in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, I am 27 years old, a lover of cycling and pop music, and a historian of the sciences and humanities. I have joined Leiden’s Institute for History as a postdoc some months ago, and am glad with this opportunity to tell you a bit about my background and current research!

My research has focused mainly on the historical cross-overs between the natural sciences and humanities. In my dissertation, which I defended at the University of Amsterdam last January, I showed that the academic disciplines of history and physics, despite being commonly portrayed as two completely different areas of knowledge, have had a lot in common, historically.

My own academic path has also run across the disciplines of history and physics. After obtaining a major in physics within the bèta-gamma BSc program, I enrolled in the MSc History and Philosophy of Science at Utrecht University. After that I started my above mentioned PhD research. Perhaps surprisingly, I carried out this historical research at the University of Amsterdam’s Institute of Physics. Now, by becoming a postdoc at Leiden’s Institute for History, I make an institutional move to the other side of the 'two cultures'. I can't wait to see how being part of a historical department and community will contribute to my further research and general development as a historian!

I am the newest member of the NWO project Scholarly Vices: A Longue Durée History. In this project I will collaborate with six fantastic and versatile colleagues (3 PhD students, 2 other postdocs, and the project leader Herman Paul). As some of you may already know, we examine what language scholars and scientists have used to disqualify each other’s work and each other, and how that language has changed over the past centuries. We are particularly interested in the use of so-called 'scholarly vices', such as dogmatism, speculation, subjectivity, prejudice, haste, and so on. My individual project examines if and how such language of vice has been used in academic book reviews over the course of the twentieth century. I focus on American journals in particular, from disciplines as diverse as history and physics (again), as well as biology and sociology.

Thus far, I have been exploring the vices of past science and scholarship not from my wonderful new Leiden office, but mainly from home, in Rotterdam. Luckily, I have a very pleasant home office, which I share with my amazing girlfriend Anouk and cute but vicious kitten Tino (who seems to get a lot of fun out of stealing and dragging along with him my papers and Zoom-bombing my meetings). To be fair, I have found it quite challenging to resist the vices that come with working from home myself. For example, I have found it hard not to indulge in some form of 'narrow-mindedness' as a result of the lack of opportunities to share and align ideas with colleagues. Without being able to frequently consult them, I have noticed, my ideas have developed somewhat less smoothly than usually.

For these and many other reasons, I look forward enormously to be able to meet and share ideas with you, fellow Leiden historians! I can’t wait to meet you and share ideas with you during lunches and seminars, workshops and coffee breaks, walks around Leiden, etc. I hope that this will be possible again soon.

If you’re already interested to hear more about me and/or my research, please don’t hesitate to contact me via e-mail!

Kim Hajek

Greetings colleagues in the Institute for History! I made it to Leiden at the end of January, just before the borders closed again to non-EU nationals like myself. As an Australian, I had nowhere else to go, given that flights into Australia remain extremely restricted since the lockdowns began. After spending nearly three years working in London, as a postdoctoral researcher at the LSE, I’m enjoying the smaller size of Leiden, especially the chance to meet with colleagues for a walk around the canals. It has also been fun—and challenging—to join one of the Institute Dutch classes, and I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow language-learners in person some time.

I’m an intellectual historian whose research combines history of science and literary studies; my key interest is in using the tools of literary analysis to explore writing practices in the human sciences, particularly through the 19th and early 20th centuries. My doctoral research explored the history of hypnotism in fin de siècle France and reciprocal knowledge-making between scientific and literary sources. More recently, I have published on ideas of ‘normal personality’ in psychological case histories, and on links between what it meant to ‘write’ and ‘think’ in cases in the late 19th century. At the LSE, I was part of a large, collaborative, ERC-funded team investigating how scientists use narrative in the business of doing science; my exciting news is that our edited volume Narrative Science is forthcoming with CUP! This will be my first book as editor (one of a team of three).

Here in Leiden, the large-team vibe will continue, as I join Sjang as a new member of the Scholarly Vices Project team, led by Herman Paul. By now, I’m getting to know my fabulous colleagues and their various projects—as well as their suggestions on where to buy good coffee in Leiden. My part of the project involves analysing scholarly codes of conduct for their language of vice and generic conventions. I’ll work closely with Sjang to ask how vices like ‘self-promotion’ or virtues like ‘caution’ cross over between codes of conduct and book reviews in the 20th century. I’m excited to meet you as my colleagues in the Institute of History and discuss any intersections between our work. I also welcome any opportunities for guest teaching and to participate in the life of the Institute.

For now, I’m working partly from my seventh-floor apartment near the Leiden Biosciences Precinct, and partly from my office in Huizinga. Please drop by to say hello if you’re in the building, or send me an email.

What always surprises me is how much time I spend looking at sunsets — both here and where I lived during London’s lockdowns; not what Australians expect from European life. I also didn’t expect to be buying houseplants — I always used to travel so much I couldn’t look after them properly. Though travel is the top of my list for what to do when things are ‘normal’ again, along with gym classes and in-person seminars and conferences.

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