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Introducing: Caroline Schep and Bianca Angelien Claveria

Caroline Schep and Bianca Angelien Claveria recently joined the Institute for History as PhD candidates in the ERC-funded project “Human Subject Research and Medical Ethics in Colonial Southeast Asia”, led by Fenneke Sysling. Below they introduce themselves.

Caroline Schep

So far, my academic career has been a rather colourful one, characterised by my wide range of interests, but probably mostly my inability to focus. I started studying in Leiden in 2016 and completed the BA in both History and Art History. In both programmes, I limited myself to the nineteenth and twentieth century in Europe and the US, and developed an interest in nationalism national identities. Next to my studies, I got to know the University of Leiden very well due to my seat in the Faculty Council of Humanities, and visited the Koninklijk Instituut te Rome for their summer school on heritage.

Having fallen in love with Leiden and its academic climate, I decided to stay here for my Research Master in History. Instead of using the Master to deepen my focus, I accidentally stumbled into new fields. As I wanted to combine cosmopolitanism and nationalism studies for my thesis, I chose the Wiener Werkstätte’s fashion as a case study and indulged in Austrian history. At Centropa in Vienna, I got to do a research internship on Polish-Jewish remembrance of the twentieth century, and in Leiden, I became student-assistant of the Foundation for Austrian Studies under supervision of prof. Jeroen Duindam. These networks allowed me to participate in conferences in Leiden and Bratislava, which were experiences that convinced me to pursue a PhD. Moreover, as I became familiar with Jewish history, I got offered a position at the Expert Centre for Restitution at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. It was the perfect research opportunity in which I combined history and art history, and learned to work independently on large projects.

In the meantime, I also discovered sports history as an interesting field to connect with nationalism, and published about Formula 1 in National Identities. A more lasting topic that I explored during my Research Master, however, was history of science and of the humanities. For two years, I worked as a student assistant on prof. Herman Paul’s VICI-project Scholarly Vices: A Long Durée History and took courses on this subject. I got wonderful opportunities to present at the ESHS Early Career Scholars Conference and to publish an article in History of European Ideas with prof. Paul.

Clearly, when I graduated from the RMA in 2022, I was determined to pursue a PhD. The question was only: in what field? After working at the NIOD, I became a conservator of the HDC | Protestant Erfgoed collection and the university archives at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Besides learning practical skills such as making exhibitions, I discovered yet another interesting part of history: Indonesia. The HDC collection included many archives and items from missionaries that had worked there during and after colonial times, which sparked my interest. I engaged in (interuniversity) projects on colonial heritage and absolutely enjoyed it.

When dr. Fenneke Sysling’s project Human Subject Research and Medical Ethics in Colonial Southeast Asia opened for applications, I knew that it would be a rare opportunity to do something that made an impact but also combined a lot of perspectives that I was somewhat familiar with. I look forward to (finally!) focusing and learning many new things over the next four years. Moreover, I am extremely happy to be back at my alma mater. I very much enjoy living in Leiden and after work hours one may find me in concert halls, in the dojo to practice jiu jitsu, in the cinema to watch new art house films, or tasting some lovely wines with friends. I cannot wait to meet you all!

Bianca Angelien Claveria

Kamusta ka? (How are you?)

I originally intended to write the lively and iconic Filipino greeting of Mabuhay! but it felt too formal and rigid for a self-introduction among mentors, colleagues, and friends. Kamusta ka? sounds more warm and friendly, and it was a better alternative to another iconic (but hackneyed) greeting I had in mind: Good day, I hope that this finds you well. Please feel free to laugh or snigger, the joke was intended.

Kidding aside, it is a great privilege to join the Institute for History as a PhD candidate, and as a member of the ERC-funded research project led by Dr. Fenneke Sysling on “Human Subject Research and Medical Ethics in Colonial Southeast Asia”. I completed my undergraduate degree in History, with a minor in Philosophy, at Ateneo de Manila University, and my master’s degree in History also from the same university. For my graduate thesis, I did a comparative study of the meteorological communications and typhoon warning systems used in the respective colonial meteorological services of the Philippines and Hong Kong during the early 20th century.

Prior to pursuing my PhD studies at Leiden University, I juggled several roles while I was working at Ateneo de Manila University, and in retrospect, I think that they were great opportunities for me to hone numerous skills expected in academia in general, and in pursuing a doctorate specifically.  I was an Instructor at the Department of History, and taught courses on Philippine History. I had the opportunity of developing and teaching an interdisciplinary course on environmental history and disaster studies with Professor Greg Bankoff (Department of History, University of Hull), and with colleagues from our home department and the Department of Environmental Science. The course was entitled "The Ground We Stand On: Hazards, Disasters, and the Making of the Modern Philippines”. I also collaborated with Professor Bankoff on a University Research Council funded research project, “Exploring the historical grassroots of resilience in the Philippines". In addition to my teaching and research roles, I was an Editorial Assistant of the Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints journal, a faculty co-adviser to our undergraduate student organization, the League of Atenean Historians (LAHi), and the head of our department's Science, Health, and Environment research group.

During my graduate studies, I represented my university at the 14th Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative (HYLI) held at Yangon, Myanmar in 2017, and participated in a one-year graduate scholarship program at the International Christian University (ICU) in Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan from 2017–2018. In 2019, I joined the Second International Summer School on Transnationalism at Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. With these great opportunities to enrich my competencies abroad, I sincerely wanted to pay it forward back home. From 2021–2022, I served as the Chairperson of the Committee on Graduate Student Concerns (CGSC) of the Ateneo de Manila University, and I am currently serving as a cluster convenor of Tanggol Kasaysayan. Tanggol Kasaysayan is a volunteer network of students, historians, professionals, and scholars who collectively seek to protect and uphold historical truth amid threats like fraud, disinformation, and historical distortion in the Philippines.

I'm starting to think that this self-introduction is morphing more into a job interview, but in all seriousness, I am very eager to pursue my PhD studies here in Leiden, and I am looking forward to meeting and learning from everyone at the Institute. If I am not at my desk, you're sure to find me next to the coffee machine on the first floor (gulping what could only be my nth cup of coffee for the day), and it would be a pleasure to chat with you (the weather would surely be a great conversation starter)—and perhaps I could finally ask you in person, kamusta ka?

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