Dr. Gijsbert Oonk

If you don’t know the past, you get lost in the future

Gijsbert Oonk (1966) is a Global Historian whose research and teaching activities are in the field of Global History, especially African and Indian History, Migration, Citizenship, Capitalism and Inequality, and Sport.

Research Excellence Initiative

Gijsbert Oonk is project leader of a new research project on History, Sport and Nation that has been awarded a prestigious Research Excellence Initiative (REI) grant of €417,000. This interdisciplinary research project is titled 'Sport and National Identity: Changing Citizenship and the Global Battle for Talent'. The grant solidifies interdisciplinary collaboration between three departments: the Department of History and the Department of Media and Communication as well as the Department of Sociology contribute to this new and innovative project.

Current projects

Sport, Nation and Migration

The research project ‘Sport and Nation’ focuses on talented migrant athletes in football and the Olympics in the context of changing citizenship, ‘complex nationality issues’ and elite migration. We will emphasize how ideas, institutions and context in this global ‘race for talent’ have changed over the past century and highlight the paradox of states promoting the ‘nation’ without ‘nationals’. In this project we currently have employed three PhD students. See for more our Sport and Nation website.

History of the Hindu Lohana community

Dr. Oonk is also writing a monography on the ‘globalisation’ of the Hindu Lohana. The history of this community will be described from its origins in current Afghanistan to the present. Their migration and ties with Gujarat (India) will be portrayed in the context of the emergence of a global Lohana community in the twentieth century. Proposed outcome: a monography in 2020. This is part of a larger project on the Indian Diasporas.

This project is privately funded a consequence of earlier funded research by the Dutch Foundation of Tropical research (NWO/WOTRO). This resulted in a monograph: Settled Strangers: Asian Business Elites in East Africa 1800-2000 (Sage Publication 2013). Oonk also edited the book Global Indian Diasporas: Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory (Amsterdam University Press, 2007). In this volume the contributors critically review the concept of diaspora. This volume is available as an open access publication.

Current positions

Gijsbert Oonk  is Associate Professor of African and South Asian History at ESHCC. He is honorary research affiliate of the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA), University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg. In addition he is research associate for the Indian Ocean World Centre at McGill University, Montreal Canada. He served as Research Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London in 2014 and 2015. In 2011-2012 he was the Alfred D. Chandler Jr. International Visiting Fellow in Business History at the Harvard Business School (Boston).

Earlier research and publications

In his earlier research Oonk was in interested in the role of South Asian (Indian) migrants and settlers in East Africa. He finalized his research project with a monograph: Settled Strangers: Asian Business Elites in East Africa 1800-2000 (Sage Publication 2013). This research has been funded by the Dutch Foundation of Tropical research (WOTRO/NWO). He also published a widely acclaimed biography of the South Asian business family Karimjee Jivanjee. The Karimjee Jivanjee Family: Merchant Princes of East Africa, 1800-2000, Amsterdam: Pallas publications 2009). He has received his Ph-D in non-western history at the Erasmus University Rotterdam in 1998: Ondernemers in ontwikkeling. Fabrieken en fabrikanten in de Indiase katoenin­dustrie, 1850-1930, [Entrepreneurs in Development. Mills and Millowners in the Indian Cotton Textile Industry (Hilversum 1998)]. He also edited the book Global Indian Diasporas: Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory (Amsterdam University Press, 2007). In this volume the contributors critically review the concept of diaspora. This volume is free available as an open access publication.