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Connect humanities; reimagine research

Knowledge for society: from COVID-19 to climate change

The programme is designed to equip the next generation of humanities researchers with the tools to design innovative, imaginative research across disciplines. In close collaboration with highly acclaimed research groups, you’ll develop techniques to connect your research with current societal challenges, and to communicate the results to a broad audience. You’ll benefit from the extensive network our teams have built up with heritage institutions, research institutes, NGOs and business partners, for internships and embedded research projects.

The opportunities are endless – as evidenced by the vast range of projects students have got involved with in recent years. Depending on the chosen area of specialisation, students have worked as assistants for the Environmental Humanities Centre at VU Amsterdam, and for the Graduate School Humanities. Human Language Technology students have collaborated with professors in research projects to improve the recovery of patients after COVID-19, using their text-mining skills. 

Others have studied the language of sexual predators (Forensic Linguistics); or the link between empathy and the first-person perspective in movies, virtual reality, paintings and photography (Critical Studies in Art and Culture); or the history of forced labour and slavery in cooperation with researchers at the International Institute for Social History; or how people tell stories about the environment in nonfictional texts (Literature and Contested Spaces). A Philosophy student spent a semester in the US; one Literature student was an intern at the China Cultural Centre in The Hague, and another one was an intern for the Winternachten Literary Festival. And a History student did an exchange with the European University in St. Petersburg. Students from different tracks have collaborated across faculties and with citizens in Amsterdam to solve neighbourhood issues in a Community Service Project.

Whichever track you choose, you’ll hone your critical-thinking and analytical skills, learn the tools of the trade, and have ample opportunity to explore your future career inside and outside academia, whether you want to become a researcher or an entrepreneur.

Once you have chosen a track, you can either follow the set curriculum of that particular track (including electives), or you can opt for one of the cross-cutting themes Environmental Humanities and Digital Humanities. You will find more information about the two themes beneath the tracks.

The start date of this programme is September 1st.

Facts and figures

Which specialization do you choose?

Find out what the different possibilities are within the master's programme.

Summary

Make the connection between visual art, architecture, design and media

The Critical Studies in Art and Culture track focuses on current developments within four main disciplines – visual arts, architecture, design and media – from both a theoretical and a historical perspective. In a globalised cultural world in which art, architecture, design and media are ever more closely integrated and packaged as ‘creative industries’, disciplinary boundaries are called into question and challenged. But a thorough grounding in older and newer disciplines such as art history, architectural history, design culture and media studies is a prerequisite for asking these questions.
In your study programme, you’ll focus on the analysis of visual objects: artefacts in various media that function (primarily or in part) as images. This ranges from landscapes, cities and buildings to artworks in various media, as well as film, television, design and games. Notions such as inter-, cross- and transmediality play an important role. Since artefacts, media and forms of intermediality can only exist in specific social, institutional, economical and ideological contexts and networks, Critical Studies in Art and Culture will equip you with the analytical and critical tools necessary for analysing these. Each of the four main disciplines bring specific theories and methods to the table, and the programme seeks to highlight their interconnectedness, with reference to their specific potential as well as their possible limitations.

As a student of Critical Studies in Art and Culture, you’ll be joining a highly dedicated international group of students, alumni, PhD candidates and staff members from various disciplinary backgrounds, who share a strong interest in the cultural sector. Within and beyond the programme, you’ll meet artists and researchers from around the world, exchange ideas about their research during our informal brunches, and visit exhibitions and cultural events. Many of our students and alumni are active with the VU Amsterdam affiliated journal Kunstlicht. Furthermore, both the Graduate School and our Interdisciplinary Research Institutes CLUE+ (Research Institute for Culture, Cognition, History and Heritage) and the Network Institute offer a broad range of workshops, seminars, lectures and research groups to attend.

Summary

Connect events, sites, bodies and stories across continents and ages

In the Global History track, you’ll learn to investigate the dynamics and long-term developments of the global interconnection of goods, ideas and people, and the role of power, religion and affects in such constellations. In research-intensive courses, you’ll collaborate with renowned researchers and research groups in the fields of migration studies, history of capitalism, knowledge and religion, material culture and heritage, emotions and senses, and environmental history. The programme has an interdisciplinary perspective that includes concepts and methodologies from the social and environmental sciences, philosophy and law. It also offers you the opportunity to develop skills in digital analysis and reflect on the possibilities of emerging digital humanities techniques and e-Humanities approaches.

The Global History track focuses on the study of politics, culture, religion, economy and daily life from a historical, theoretical and 'new' world history perspective. In a globalised and highly digital world, long-term perspectives are needed to analyse the complex phenomena of our time: perspectives sensitive to deep-rooted mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. Disciplinary boundaries need to be questioned and challenged, and new methods explored. In order to rise to these challenges, we need researchers who are trained in finding and interpreting compelling source material, in critical reflection, and in detailed reporting. This track will give you these skills and more. You’ll develop a critical attitude and learn to arrive at original lines of questioning based on profound knowledge of your research subject. You’ll develop your own, unique, expert knowledge, enabling you to start a successful research career.

You’re encouraged to make use of the staff’s intensive networks with heritage and research institutions (International Institute for Social History, Huygens ING Institute for Dutch and Global history, Amsterdam and national Musea and Archives), governmental organisations and NGOs (e.g. UNESCO) and business partners (banks, creative industries), to set up embedded research projects that could act as a stepping stone for the next move in your career. The Global History track offers a dynamic international context where students from the Netherlands and elsewhere exchange views, experiences and historical research questions. Taking part in exchange programmes with universities abroad for up to three months are encouraged, with financial support from the Graduate School of Humanities.

Summary

Discover how literary texts represent and shape spaces

Novels, poems and plays shape our perceptions and affect our lived experience of spaces like nation, wilderness or the body. These spaces are contested in our current context, and have been for centuries. If you choose the Literature and Contested Spaces track, you’ll examine the roles that literary texts play in the representation and shaping of contested spaces. In your seminars, tutorials and individual research projects, you’ll explore how literary texts have played a role in forming our experience of such spaces. During your study programme, you’ll pursue the ways in which literary representations interact with real or imagined spaces, geographies and ecosystems. You’ll focus on literature and three kinds of contested space: the (trans)national, the environment and the body.

The track is ideal for students who are keen to hone their critical thinking and research skills in this area; you’ll get the chance to pursue your research interests under the guidance of specialists in the field. Plus, the track’s involvement in environmental humanities makes it unique in the Netherlands.

Summary

Make sense of thought and reality through language

Are you looking for excellent expertise in linguistics, coupled with a challenging specialisation in newly developing research fields that are fundamentally relevant to today’s society? The Linguistics track trains you as a professional linguistic researcher, specialised in either Human Language Technology or Forensic Linguistics.

1. Human Language Technology

Human Language Technology is a young and rapidly evolving research field that holds a unique position between linguistics and computer science. Nowadays, a firm background in language technology and the ability to process large data sets are extremely valuable tools in linguistic research. As a student of this track, you’ll get acquainted with the essential large computational linguistic resources, learn programming in Python for linguistics, and develop skills in Natural Language Programming (NLP) and machine learning. Through this intensive research programme, you’ll become a true professional in human language technology.

The track is offered by the Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab, an internationally acclaimed research group in computational linguistics. 

2. Forensic Linguistics

Forensic Linguistics is a new and exciting field, which has both a narrow and a broad definition. In its more specific sense, it’s about the use of linguistic evidence in the courtroom. In its broader sense, it refers to all areas of overlap between language and the law, including the language used in legal or quasi-legal settings by judges, lawyers, witnesses, police officers, interpreters and others. As a graduate of this track, you’ll have the theoretical background and practical casework experience to be able to analyse disputed texts, recognise a 'language crime' such as bribery or threatening communication, and identify participants in the police station or courtroom who are at a linguistic disadvantage, and therefore vulnerable to miscarriages of justice.

Take a look at the complete study programme in our Study Guide.

Summary

Explore human knowledge and morality

Are you looking for in-depth discussions of current issues in epistemology and moral and political philosophy, as well as their historical roots? Do you want to hone your research skills for a possible future PhD? Are you ready to apply historically informed analysis of the foundations of knowledge and morality to topical issues like the nature of fake news and conspiracy theories, climate scepticism, the relationship between freedom and equality, individual responsibility for collective outcomes, and the morality of markets?

The Philosophy track prepares you for a career as a researcher in philosophy. It focuses on central questions concerning human knowledge and morality, and allows you to specialise in different areas. Key features of the programme include the combination of historical and contemporary perspectives; the programme’s connection to the department’s internationally renowned research projects; a strong focus on research skills and preparation for an academic career; an international opportunity to spend a semester abroad; and the fact that the programme is embedded in a humanities research and education environment.

  • Critical Studies in Art and Culture

    Summary

    Make the connection between visual art, architecture, design and media

    The Critical Studies in Art and Culture track focuses on current developments within four main disciplines – visual arts, architecture, design and media – from both a theoretical and a historical perspective. In a globalised cultural world in which art, architecture, design and media are ever more closely integrated and packaged as ‘creative industries’, disciplinary boundaries are called into question and challenged. But a thorough grounding in older and newer disciplines such as art history, architectural history, design culture and media studies is a prerequisite for asking these questions.
    In your study programme, you’ll focus on the analysis of visual objects: artefacts in various media that function (primarily or in part) as images. This ranges from landscapes, cities and buildings to artworks in various media, as well as film, television, design and games. Notions such as inter-, cross- and transmediality play an important role. Since artefacts, media and forms of intermediality can only exist in specific social, institutional, economical and ideological contexts and networks, Critical Studies in Art and Culture will equip you with the analytical and critical tools necessary for analysing these. Each of the four main disciplines bring specific theories and methods to the table, and the programme seeks to highlight their interconnectedness, with reference to their specific potential as well as their possible limitations.

    As a student of Critical Studies in Art and Culture, you’ll be joining a highly dedicated international group of students, alumni, PhD candidates and staff members from various disciplinary backgrounds, who share a strong interest in the cultural sector. Within and beyond the programme, you’ll meet artists and researchers from around the world, exchange ideas about their research during our informal brunches, and visit exhibitions and cultural events. Many of our students and alumni are active with the VU Amsterdam affiliated journal Kunstlicht. Furthermore, both the Graduate School and our Interdisciplinary Research Institutes CLUE+ (Research Institute for Culture, Cognition, History and Heritage) and the Network Institute offer a broad range of workshops, seminars, lectures and research groups to attend.

  • Global History

    Summary

    Connect events, sites, bodies and stories across continents and ages

    In the Global History track, you’ll learn to investigate the dynamics and long-term developments of the global interconnection of goods, ideas and people, and the role of power, religion and affects in such constellations. In research-intensive courses, you’ll collaborate with renowned researchers and research groups in the fields of migration studies, history of capitalism, knowledge and religion, material culture and heritage, emotions and senses, and environmental history. The programme has an interdisciplinary perspective that includes concepts and methodologies from the social and environmental sciences, philosophy and law. It also offers you the opportunity to develop skills in digital analysis and reflect on the possibilities of emerging digital humanities techniques and e-Humanities approaches.

    The Global History track focuses on the study of politics, culture, religion, economy and daily life from a historical, theoretical and 'new' world history perspective. In a globalised and highly digital world, long-term perspectives are needed to analyse the complex phenomena of our time: perspectives sensitive to deep-rooted mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. Disciplinary boundaries need to be questioned and challenged, and new methods explored. In order to rise to these challenges, we need researchers who are trained in finding and interpreting compelling source material, in critical reflection, and in detailed reporting. This track will give you these skills and more. You’ll develop a critical attitude and learn to arrive at original lines of questioning based on profound knowledge of your research subject. You’ll develop your own, unique, expert knowledge, enabling you to start a successful research career.

    You’re encouraged to make use of the staff’s intensive networks with heritage and research institutions (International Institute for Social History, Huygens ING Institute for Dutch and Global history, Amsterdam and national Musea and Archives), governmental organisations and NGOs (e.g. UNESCO) and business partners (banks, creative industries), to set up embedded research projects that could act as a stepping stone for the next move in your career. The Global History track offers a dynamic international context where students from the Netherlands and elsewhere exchange views, experiences and historical research questions. Taking part in exchange programmes with universities abroad for up to three months are encouraged, with financial support from the Graduate School of Humanities.

  • Literature and Contested Spaces

    Summary

    Discover how literary texts represent and shape spaces

    Novels, poems and plays shape our perceptions and affect our lived experience of spaces like nation, wilderness or the body. These spaces are contested in our current context, and have been for centuries. If you choose the Literature and Contested Spaces track, you’ll examine the roles that literary texts play in the representation and shaping of contested spaces. In your seminars, tutorials and individual research projects, you’ll explore how literary texts have played a role in forming our experience of such spaces. During your study programme, you’ll pursue the ways in which literary representations interact with real or imagined spaces, geographies and ecosystems. You’ll focus on literature and three kinds of contested space: the (trans)national, the environment and the body.

    The track is ideal for students who are keen to hone their critical thinking and research skills in this area; you’ll get the chance to pursue your research interests under the guidance of specialists in the field. Plus, the track’s involvement in environmental humanities makes it unique in the Netherlands.

  • Linguistics

    Summary

    Make sense of thought and reality through language

    Are you looking for excellent expertise in linguistics, coupled with a challenging specialisation in newly developing research fields that are fundamentally relevant to today’s society? The Linguistics track trains you as a professional linguistic researcher, specialised in either Human Language Technology or Forensic Linguistics.

    1. Human Language Technology

    Human Language Technology is a young and rapidly evolving research field that holds a unique position between linguistics and computer science. Nowadays, a firm background in language technology and the ability to process large data sets are extremely valuable tools in linguistic research. As a student of this track, you’ll get acquainted with the essential large computational linguistic resources, learn programming in Python for linguistics, and develop skills in Natural Language Programming (NLP) and machine learning. Through this intensive research programme, you’ll become a true professional in human language technology.

    The track is offered by the Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab, an internationally acclaimed research group in computational linguistics. 

    2. Forensic Linguistics

    Forensic Linguistics is a new and exciting field, which has both a narrow and a broad definition. In its more specific sense, it’s about the use of linguistic evidence in the courtroom. In its broader sense, it refers to all areas of overlap between language and the law, including the language used in legal or quasi-legal settings by judges, lawyers, witnesses, police officers, interpreters and others. As a graduate of this track, you’ll have the theoretical background and practical casework experience to be able to analyse disputed texts, recognise a 'language crime' such as bribery or threatening communication, and identify participants in the police station or courtroom who are at a linguistic disadvantage, and therefore vulnerable to miscarriages of justice.

    Take a look at the complete study programme in our Study Guide.

  • Philosophy

    Summary

    Explore human knowledge and morality

    Are you looking for in-depth discussions of current issues in epistemology and moral and political philosophy, as well as their historical roots? Do you want to hone your research skills for a possible future PhD? Are you ready to apply historically informed analysis of the foundations of knowledge and morality to topical issues like the nature of fake news and conspiracy theories, climate scepticism, the relationship between freedom and equality, individual responsibility for collective outcomes, and the morality of markets?

    The Philosophy track prepares you for a career as a researcher in philosophy. It focuses on central questions concerning human knowledge and morality, and allows you to specialise in different areas. Key features of the programme include the combination of historical and contemporary perspectives; the programme’s connection to the department’s internationally renowned research projects; a strong focus on research skills and preparation for an academic career; an international opportunity to spend a semester abroad; and the fact that the programme is embedded in a humanities research and education environment.

Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities aims to train humanities students as the data analysts of the future. The sources and objects studied in history, media, literature and linguistics are increasingly becoming available digitally. There’s a growing need for digitally trained students who are able to track news reports and social debates to understand the changing impact of ideas, individuals and institutions over time.

The Digital Humanities theme offers you the opportunity to create, interpret and analyse different types of data collections using computational tools. You’ll follow an introductory course in Digital Humanities, several Human Language Technology courses offered by the internationally acclaimed Computational Lexicology & Terminology Lab, and courses offered by your specialisation. Through a combination of courses, internships and electives, you’ll be trained to redesign traditional hermeneutic and empirical humanities methods into computational techniques, and to evaluate the differences between the methods used in (digital) research projects. You’ll investigate and apply forms of data analysis that look critically at big data from multiple sources and perspectives.

Environmental Humanities

Globally, one of the most pressing concerns is the environmental crisis. The threat of major climate change has made us aware that we live in a connected world: in relation to our natural surroundings, to our communities, and to socio-political and cultural structures. This principle of interconnectedness is the focal point of the Environmental Humanities theme.

Relations between humans and their environment have long been central to various disciplinary courses and research projects within the Faculty of Humanities at VU Amsterdam, especially in the departments of History, Art and Culture, and Literature. Environmental Humanities brings these disciplinary interests together to create new connections both within and outside the humanities.

You’re encouraged to connect questions, issues and methodologies to probe pressing environmental concerns from the basis of your disciplinary track. You’ll not only apply your own methodologies and perspectives to environmental issues, but you’ll also make creative connections to other humanities disciplines. Moreover, you’ll understand the value of the humanities in exploring urgent environmental concerns.

Change your future with the Humanities Research programme

Change your future with the Humanities Research programme

On completing this Master’s programme, you’ll have strong expertise in your own discipline, as well as the ability to collaborate with other experts outside the university in an international context. You’ll have all the skills needed to work as a researcher inside and outside academia – making you a great candidate for a PhD position or a job in the industry.

Digital Humanities prepares you for a (research) career in the fast-growing area of digital humanities, or for a position in science journalism, data analytics, digital collection management and so on. Environmental Humanities equips you for a career in one of the most important areas of our age: environmental research.

Explore your future prospects
 Two men sit in a gigantic black spider web (sculpture by Tomas Saraceno)