|hope college > van raalte institute|
Holland to Holland
This has been a year of big transitions for our whole family. In June, we moved to the Netherlands in order for me to take a position at the Free University of Amsterdam. Through all of this, I remain—happily—a research fellow at the Van Raalte Institute, albeit one on an extended leave of absence. My departure for the Netherlands does not make me less fond of Hope College, if fondness can be measured by writing institutional history.
Carol Simon of Hope’s Philosophy Department and I have nearly completed a manuscript entitled, “Can Hope Endure?,” an account of Hope’s sometimes turbulent and always compelling religious past, describing Hope’s situation on a faultline between evangelicalism and “mainline” Protestantism, where widely divergent opinions, especially in the last four decades, contested each other to determine the college’s direction.
Most of my research time as a historian was spent in the Joint Archives of Holland, which offered a wide variety of materials useful for the upcoming book, from fraternity archives to the photograph collection of several presidents. By using Hope College as a specific case, “Can Hope Endure?” attempts to raise issues about the challenges of church-related schools of higher education.
Additionally, I have been engaged in several other projects, many of them pertaining to Dutch political culture. For instance, I wrote an article on the assassinated politician, Pim Fortuyn, comparing him, particularly in respect to style, with the former governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura—both were self-styled “naughty boys” with strong streaks of both libertarianism and populism. I prepared a talk for the Dutch Council of Public Administration (Raad van Openbaar Bestuur) on the pitfalls of political discourse in the Netherlands, making a particular note of how Dutch politicians and administrators have historically preferred using the passive tense in their rhetoric. In addition to this, I sometimes have been invited to attend conferences, give presentations to small groups or speak as a guest on Dutch public radio, often on the topic of how an American historian interprets the Netherlands. And since the war on Iraq, I sometimes also get asked to explain America to the Dutch, not an easy thing to do these days.
The position at the Free University is quite different—much less teaching than at Hope College (though I much enjoy the students here) and much more time for research. Add to that a fair amount of administrative work that is necessary for a Dutch hoogleraar (professor) to do, work that at Hope I was all too happy to leave to my department chair or dean. The big challenge will be to concretize a research plan that will fit the needs of my staff and at the same time draw new energy and talent in the coming period. But it is a task that I have increasingly grown to relish.