Introducing Our New Board Member: Marijke Huisman

21 April 2011

We would like to introduce our new academic board member Dr. Marijke Huisman who will fill the seat left vacant by Prof. Dewey White. As the academic board member, her primary goal will be to promote awareness of the Archive Centre in the academic world and to generate ideas and perspectives for academic research.

Dr. Huisman is currently a visiting scholar of the Dutch Studies Program at UC Berkeley in California. Here she shares her story:

“A few months ago, in January 2011, I left my home in the Netherlands, and moved my luggage, 19,5 kg, to the United States, to work as a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley in California. A few months earlier, in November 2010, I was about to commence my position on the board of the Expatriate Archive Centre. At first I thought it would be a problem that a new board member almost immediately relocated for half a year, but the other board members told me this would not be a problem. It would actually be a great learning experience since I didn’t have any experience with living abroad, like my fellow board members who are, after all, former expatriates.

In 1990, I moved from my parents’ house in Zwolle to Utrecht, where I studied history. I never moved to another place again. Being a post-doctoral researcher at Erasmus University, I do commute to Rotterdam however. Since that can hardly count as an expatriate experience, how did I end up on the board of the Expatriate Archive Centre?

The main reason is that I am a historian who specializes in the type of texts that Dutch people label as ‘ego-documents’, whereas ‘life narratives’ is the common phrase in English. Whatever the exact wording, autobiographical narratives are the focus of my interest. Most of the materials in the Expatriate Archive Centre are autobiographical documents, so I was interested in joining the board. Together we aim to collect sources which document expatriate life, to make these sources available to expatriates and academics, and to stimulate further research into the history and other aspects of expatriate experience.

It isn’t necessary to have personal experience with the matter one studies of course. On the other hand, my present life as a visiting scholar gives me a slight but useful idea of what it means to be an expatriate. For one, it strikes me to what extent I stand out as a foreigner. I speak English and I think my looks aren’t very outlandish from an American perspective, but people in stores and other venues recognize me as a foreigner immediately. The Americans I meet are very kind, but their interest in the Netherlands and Europe as well as my thoughts about the US makes it also hard to blend into their society. Another thing is that I feel more ‘Dutch’ right now than I have ever felt before. As a consequence, I’m considering attending the Queen’s Day party in downtown San Francisco. Usually I hate Koninginnedag and stay at home. The strange feeling of being somewhere in between your old and your new home seems to me one of the most interesting aspects of the expatriate experience, that can be studied from an historical as well as many other perspectives. But right now, I live the life of an expatriate. And I create my own ego-document, a weblog to keep my friends and relatives posted of my life overseas.

When I will return to the Netherlands I will continue my activities on the board of the Expatriate Archive Centre with a slightly different perspective. I will probably not feel so Dutch anymore and will of course submit my expat stories to the Expatriate Archive Centre!”



  • Marijke Huisman

    Marijke Huisman (1972) is a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Historical Culture of Erasmus University Rotterdam. From January until July 2011 she is a vistiting scholar in the Dutch Studies Program at UC Berkeley. She works on her research project about the use of autobiographical narratives in 19th- and 20th-century public debates on slavery and human rights.

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