Meet the Expert: Corinne Hofman
Between Science and Society
Prof. dr. Corinne Hofman of the Faculty of Archaeology and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) is a Dutch archaeologist focusing on the Caribbean islands. The former Dean of Archaeology at Leiden University is currently using her Spinoza prize to study indigenous Amerindian societies in the Caribbean. Emphasizing the role and importance of local communities, she aims to put local societies at the core of her studies.
Prof. Hofman started studying archaeology in Brussels before doing her MA and PhD at Leiden University. Leiden is where her interest in the Caribbean islands was truly awakened. “Right time, right place”, she said about this moment in her life; “in the Netherlands not many people were doing archaeological research in the Caribbean area and with help of former mentor and colleague Maarten Jansen it became the focus of all research throughout my career.” A major contribution of her research is the ERC Synergy project Nexus1492 (2013-2019), which investigated the impacts of colonial encounters in the Caribbean from a local perspective instead of a Western-centered European one. Prof. Hofman emphasizes that “decolonisation of knowledge production” runs like a thread through her research.
During her work for the Nexus1492 project as well as working as a Dean at the Archaeology Faculty in Leiden in 2014, Prof. Hofman was awarded a Spinoza prize. Because of her busy schedule at the time, she decided to wait until 2019 to use it for the project she is currently working on at KITLV: CaribTRAILS. Continuing the work done in the Nexus1492 project, CaribTRAILS combines research from multiple fields of study with local knowledge. Prof. Hofman highlights that this multi-vocal, transdisciplinary nature of the project is key for how researchers and local communities work together on the promotion, protection and safeguarding of heritage of the islands. “The knowledge should be in the hands of the islanders; not in ours nor those of expats or others living there. It’s the islanders heritage.”
Looking forward, Prof. Hofman expects to be able to travel to the islands again soon. While working on the CaribTRAILS project, she is also one of the principal investigators of the NWO- ‘Island(er)s at the Helm’ project (also at KITLV) on social adaptation to climate challenges in the Caribbean. Furthermore, she is one of two local champions for the EuroScience Open Forum 2022 (ESOF), the largest multidisciplinary conference in Europe. “I look forward to being a part of ESOF,” she said, “and hope the conference helps to further foster the connection between science and society.”
Interviewed by LeidenGlobal intern Lisa van der Geest (October 2021)
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