Personal pages

Bregje van Eekelen

Bregje van Eekelen (PhD University of California, Santa Cruz) is Senior Researcher History of Social and Human Sciences at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus University. She is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study's School of Social Science in Princeton in 2017-2018. She is co-chair of Young Erasmus Academy, a founding member of the Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge (EIPK), and a member of the Global History Research Cluster. She has recently been awarded an EUR Fellowship (2013-2014) and a National Science Foundation (NWO) Veni Grant (2014-2019) for her project on the twentieth century history of creative thought in military-industrial contexts. At the EIPK, she is the co-PI for the collaborative research project Depoliticization and the Public Interest which was awarded a Research Excellence Initiative grant (2016-2021). 


Her research and teaching focuses on the history of the social and human sciences, including their public lives. These histories are not contained within the disciplines themselves – they are related to social, political and cultural processes, and in turn affect them. Both her dissertation and her current projects use a combination of historical and anthropological approaches to the study of traveling concepts, most notably concepts that are situated on the boundary between culture and economy. They include concepts such as ‘marketplace of ideas,’ ‘emerging economies,’ ‘knowledge economy,’ and ‘creativity.’ She studies the socio-historical conditions of the emergence of these concepts; the knowledge practices, bureaucratic categories, and narratives through which they are stabilized and kept in place; and how they structure common sense, both in the past and in the present.

Her project Brainstorms: A Cultural History of Undisciplined Thought traces the history of creative thinking in military and industrial settings (1935-1965). Through a detailed analysis of how the notion of 'creativity' emerged and transformed in response to e.g. military and managerial rationalities, the standardization and disciplining of work, and the incorporation of social scientists in corporate America, she intends to show that the employment of unstructured thought as a productive tool was more than an accident of history.

At the Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge, she is the co-PI for the Research Excellence Initiative Depoliticization and the Public Interest. By means of three strategic cases, EIPK's REI-funded project seeks to untangle the technological, regulatory and affective dimensions of depoliticization, and the potentials for alternative forms of repoliticization.

Recent articles were published or are forthcoming in the Journal of Cultural Economy, Economy and Society, Public Culture, Conflict and Society, and the Annual Review of Anthropology. Her interest in the social etymologies of words used in the ‘war on terror’ and other disasters has led to amongst others Shock and Awe, War on Words (co-edited with Jennifer Gonzalez, Bettina Stoetzer, and Anna Tsing).


Her research has been funded by numerous grants, most recently at stipend from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2017-2018), an EUR fellowship (135.000 euros), a Veni grant from the National Science Foundation (250.000 euros) and a Research Excellence Initiative grant (co-PI, 682.000). Others include a UC Chancellor’s Fellow Grant, UvA Employability Grant, Catharina van Tussenbroek Fellowship, Henriette Sara De Lanoy Meijer Fellowship, a Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Fellowship, a Nationale Talentenbeurs, a Fulbright NAF scholarship, a Vrouwe van Renswoude Fellowship, and grants from The University of California Regents.

Teaching Experience

Bregje van Eekelen’s research and teaching expertise include the history of social and human sciences; anthropology of knowledge; modern societies and their genealogies; history of social science; language & war; critical discourse analysis; global capitalism; economic history and anthropology. At Erasmus, she has experience teaching BA/MA courses in the sections Metahistory and Global History, in for instance the philosophy of history (Theory of History, Historical Culture), Histories of Emerging Economies and honors classes on neoliberalism. She has also taught the MA Research Workshop History, Memory, and National Identity. At the University of California, Santa Cruz, Van Eekelen has taught Theory and History of Anthropology, Ethnographies of Capitalism, and Histories and Cultural Aspects of Trade, Travel, and Tourism.

Network at Erasmus

Bregje van Eekelen is a founding member of the Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge (EIPK), an interdisciplinary research institute that fosters and coordinates research on public issues by bringing together scientists from the social sciences and the humanities and offering them a platform for exchange with other disciplines. She is the co-chair of Young Erasmus Academy, an interdiscipinary network of young, excellent scientists at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. She is a research affiliate of the Global History Research Cluster.