A central theme in almost all my research is 'border thinking': the notion that we are confronted with the limits of our own thinking when we encounter different ways of thinking  different cultures, unforeseen experiences, uncanny art  and are made aware of the arbitrariness of the categories we use to understand the world. My first publications dealt with the role of art in multicultural and globalised societies, and this is a theme I have continued to explore.

Current themes (2011-present)

The main focus of my current research lies on further developing what I call 'applied narratology': using insights from the the academic study of narrative in, for instance, literary criticism, to help improve practices of storytelling, translating those insights into practical methodologies. I also still publish on literary issues (see publications).

PhD Research (2005-2010)

Between 1990 and 2005, the clash between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ increasingly became the topic of conversation in the Netherlands. In my PhD thesis, Depraved Borderlands. Meetings between Muslims and non-Muslims in Dutch Literature (1990-2005), I examine the how four Dutch authors – Kader Abdolah, Abdelkader Benali, Hafid Bouazza and Robert Anker –staged this clash in their literary work. How they give meaning to categories such as ‘Muslims’ and ‘westerners’ and how they explored the boundaries of these in literature. Attention is also given to essays, opinion pieces, columns and interviews on these same topics by these four authors. In this way, I sketched the cultural matrix from which these texts arose and look at which images, prejudices and fantasies existed about the relationship between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’. I also investigate what is specifically literary about the social interventions that are established through the work of these authors.

In the thesis, I describe how the literary works discussed in my study widen the boundaries between cultures. The result is a true ‘multicultural drama’, sometimes hilarious, sometimes rather sinister. At the same time, these stories testify of a utopian longing for a place or discourse where the difference between ‘Muslim’ and ‘Western’ is transcended. That ties in with the social function that literature has according to these authors: the literary work is itself a utopia as well, a ‘borderland’ in which ‘Muslim’ and ‘Western’ can meet in ways that are impossible in reality.

The thesis was supervised by Prof. dr. E.J. Korthals Altes and Dr E.C.S. Jongeneel. More information can be found here.