W.E.A. van Beek
Hoogleraar Anthropology of Religion
Tilburg School of Humanities
Department of Culture Studies
Anthropology of religion. Within that field I concentrate on African traditional religions (plural definitely intended) in their interaction with modernity and globalisation, plus the changing relations of these religions with their societal and ecological roots. These studies are based upon long and intensive fieldwork among the Kapsiki/Higi on the frontier between North-Cameroon and North-Eastern Nigeria, and among the Dogon of Central Mali. Fieldwork started resp. in 1972 and 1978 and still is performed by periodical return visits.
Theoretically the project is about the development of ritual theory, in which I take a major inspiration from the 'modes of religion theory', in which the analysis of ritual is crucial in understanding both religious acts and concepts. Tied into this, I also engage in Mormon studies, a case of a scriptural religion contrasting with the two oral African ones.
Bio Prof. dr. Walter van BeekWalter E.A. van Beek received his PhD in cultural anthropology in 1978 at Utrecht University, based upon a field study among the Kapsiki/Higi of North Cameroon and North-Eastern Nigeria. He was associate professor of anthropology at Utrecht University till his appointment at Tilburg on the chair ?Anthropology of Religion? at the Department of Religious studies of the Faculty of Humanities at Tilburg University. After his PhD he proceeded with ethnographic work in Mali among the Dogon, and is still engaged in both projects. His principal theme in these studies is religion, in fact a variety of aspects of African traditional religions, and he has followed both the Kapsiki/Higi religion as the Dogon religion now in their dynamics for the past thirty years and he has published extensively on the topic, both ethnographic and theoretical contributions. He has continued his field researches in both areas with re-visits each year to either Cameroon or Mali, the last one in January 2009 to Cameroon. Recently he has turned to the analysis of fundamentalism in Christianity, focusing on the dynamics in i.a. Mormonism; his main angle is the influence of cultural differences on doctrinal and organisational positions within this kind of movement; his special focus here is the waxing and waning of apocalyptic discourses. One other theme is his studies is tourism in Africa. Stimulated by the fact that both ethnographic studies in Mali and Cameroon involved societies with an increasing tourist presence ? especially the Dogon ? he developed a specialisation of cultural and ethnic tourism in Africa, which has resulted in a number of journal publications, and at present is engaged in editing a volume on tourism in Africa. He has taught a large array of anthropological sub-specialisations at Utrecht University, and now teaches a course of religious anthropology, one of comparative apocalyptics, one of African Religions as well as a course called Society: Culture and Economy in the recent Liberal Arts program of Tilburg University, the latter course with prof. S. Smulders, a Tilburg economist. For ten years he was Executive Secretary of the CERES research school. At present he is implementing CERES curriculum in the SANPAD program in South Africa, engaged in the RCI with two courses, and in one research project, Holy Places in South Africa, a collaboration between Tilburg, Leiden and the University of the Freestate at Bloemfontein. In a earlier phase he has participated in the SANPAD project ?Bridging witchraft barriers in South Africa? with the University of Limpopo and ISS. His experience in Southern Africa started with 8 years of supervising a large Utrecht MA research programme in Namibia and South Africa, 1994-2002. He has been (co)promoter of 17 successful PhD candidates, and now supervises another 8 PhD candidates in their researches, most in Africa.
Overview of positions Membership of boards and juries:- President Dogon Relief Foundation, 2001-present- NWO Jury individual applications MaGW, 2003-4, reference group MaGW, NWO, (2004 ?2006, 2009-present- Platform for Sports and Development, member, 2001-present- Board member of Southern African Expertise Center, Utrecht University, (1999-2002)- Member of Directing Committee of the Universiteit-vrij-van-Nut (1998 ? 2008)- Editorial Board Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (2002 ? present)
- WOTRO beoordelingscommissie Pionierprogramma dr. B. Meyer ?Modern Mass Media, Religion and the Imagination of Communities: Different Postcolonial Trajectories in West Africa, India, Brazil and the Caribbean?.International invited lecturesVisiting lectures in Universities of Uppsala (Sweden), Bloomington (Indiana), SOAS (London), Harvard, Provo (Utah), Pietersburg, Cape Town & Durban (South Africa) and University of Namibia, Windhoek. Guest thesis examiner, international: London (SOAS), Marseille, Paris EHESS, Genua, Uppsala, BYU (Provo, Ut, USA), UKZN (Durban, South Africa) University of the Freestate (Bloemfontein South Africa), Free University Amsterdam, Catholic University, Nijmegen. Current Projects
SANPAD project Sacred Spaces in South AfricaConsultancies With Dogon Committee: a project of dams and reforestation on the plateau of Bandiagara (DGIS financed).Ecological research project in North Cameroon, EC financedVarious expert immigration reports on Cameroon and MaliAdvice on ritual for 4 May committee, Utrecht, Netherlands Extracurricular reputation
Ridder in de Orde van Oranje Nassou, april 2007.President of the World Draughts Federation (1992 ?1996, 1996 ? 2001, 2001 ? 2003) Président d?honneur, World Draughts Federation (2003 - present)Président Délégué de la Confédération Africaine du Jeu de Dames, (2003 ? 2007)Member of Honour, Koninklijke Nederlandse Dambond (2004)International Mind Sports Association, treasurer (2004 ? 2007)
Agency and settled flexibility
Researcher: Wouter van Beek
Location: Mali, Dogon area & Cameroon, Kapiski area
Keywords: religion, agency, coping strategies, diversity, flexibility
Output: articles, books, film, expositions
Description:This comparative project studies the relation between traditional religions, ecological uncertainty and the coping options and strategies for two populations with a clearly demarcated territory and a long history of settlement. The research focuses on the dynamics of adaptation of oral traditions and religions to globalization. The Dogon of the Bandiagara cliff have a long settled history, having coped with a considerable series of ecological problems in past, by a combination of a close internal organization, remittances and some agricultural flexibility, all of which shine trhough in their religion. Increasingly, tourism has become important as an additional strategy, which affects their rituals, as the tourists come for the mask dances specifically.
The Kapsiki/Higi of North Cameroon have a clearly demarcated and ecologically diversified territory but a recently constructed collective identity, with a politically uncertain past, which has stipulated their territory in the last century in many different ways. Their new strategies include specialization on trade and crop diversification. Both pictur, processes which - again - reflect in their rituals and religious concepts . This is related to their processes of self definition, and to the cultural expressive forms their identity formation has generated. The expression through material culture, and through the ceremonies, rituals and feasts is studied as one of the mechanisms of identity formation in a long process of diversification.
Direct and indirect funding
SANPAD project 'Sacred places in South Africa'
W.E.A. van Beek teaches the following subjects:
Senior Researcher African Studies Centre, Leiden
Member Seminar Committee ASC
Organiser 'Tourism in Africa'
Organiser EMSA congres
Room D 233
PO Box 90153
5000 LE Tilburg
Hoogleraar Anthropology of Religion
Last amended: 20 September 2009