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Meet the Expert: Maaike Warnaar

Mastering Methodology

Meet dr. Maaike Warnaar, a lecturer and researcher at Leiden University with a focus on Iran and the Middle East. This February, she will teach the LeidenGlobal and Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) course Methodologies for the 4th time, which she greatly looks forward to.

It was really a ‘series of coincidences’, dr. Warnaar said when asked how she became an Iran expert at Leiden University. Her academic journey started at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), where she chose to study the MA International Relations (IR) on top of her foundation year in Anthropology. She enjoyed the freedom of choosing many electives, and ended up taking classes in Nijmegen, Wageningen, Leiden and even Montreal, Canada. It was during this time that she took her first class with drs. Paul Aarts, who taught Middle Eastern studies at the UvA. “He was the first lecturer who inspired me and truly challenged me to think outside the box”, she said, which is why she decided to sign up for a trip to Iran with him and several other students. It wasn’t until her second trip to Iran during her thesis research, however, that she truly started to feel a connection with the country.

When dr. Warnaar graduated from the UvA with a thesis on Iranian foreign policy and domestic disaster, she considered Iran her ‘case study’ and wanted to focus on the bigger picture of developmental work. However, when a professor at the University of St Andrews School of IR read her thesis and asked her if she was considering getting a PhD degree, she took the opportunity to work with him and once again found herself writing about Iran. She received her PhD in June 2012 and soon after found a job teaching at Leiden University, where she still is today. “I would normally spend the majority of my time teaching and a small portion on doing research” she said. “However, I received an NWO Veni grant in 2016 to do research on the relation between representations of Iran and Dutch foreign policy towards this country during the 1960s and ‘70s.” Unfortunately, dr. Warnaar had to partly postpone her research when she suffered a burn out in 2016. “Due to my sick leave at the time I am still working on my Veni research today, but my teaching is slowly increasing.”

One of the courses dr. Warnaar is teaching this coming semester is the LeidenGlobal course Methodologies in the Social Sciences and the Humanities, in collaboration with LIAS, to which she looks forward very much. The course invites PhD and ResMA students to critically engage with their research methodology, through assignments and sparring with fellow students. “Reflexivity and positionality are key: who are you as a researcher, and what does it mean that you are doing this research and not someone else.” Dr. Warnaar adjusts the course to student’s needs every year, and for this semester has found a new array of guest speakers: mid-career researchers. “I decided to switch from so-called “arrived” researchers to mid-career scholars who are in the middle of a research project. I expect this will make the connection and interaction between lecturers and students more fruitful.” Dr. Warnaar is very excited about this years’ line up of inspiring guest lecturers.

Are you interested in taking the Methodologies course? Registration is open until January 10th!

 

Interview by LeidenGlobal intern Lisa
December 2021

 

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