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Meet the expert: David Kloos

1 februari 2021

Meet David Kloos, Senior Researcher and member of the Management Team of KITLV - the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV). Dr. David Kloos focuses his research on contemporary Indonesia and Malaysia. LeidenGlobal spoke with him on his attraction to the region, current issues and future climate change research.

Having studied history with an anthropological perspective, Kloos became interested in contemporary Islam in Southeast Asia, inspired by his teacher Heather Sutherland. For his MA thesis he conducted fieldwork in Malaysia. “Little was known about the impact of local Islamic activist groups on the political system in Malaysia.” After travelling through Aceh, Indonesia, he returned home deeply impressed by the region and with more questions than answers. He decides to go back for his PhD research, looking at the everyday religious lives of ordinary Acehnese Muslims. This PhD research is later published as book Becoming Better Muslims. Because of his expertise, Kloos occasionally gives consults and lectures on Indonesia’s current issues, for instance the growing influence of conservative and radical islam

“The place and its dynamics have always come first for me and only then I found the research I wanted to do concretely” says Kloos. His connection to Southeast Asia is apparent through his enthusiasm when talking about his past work. His follow-up project (funded with a NWO ‘Veni’) stayed in the realm of Islam but centered on female authority within the religion. “Whilst living in Aceh, I was put in touch with a woman who founded and led a traditional Islamic school. I was surprised by this. Then I was surprised by my own surprise. Why had I never considered this possibility?” He further developed the theme after his PhD and ended up living in Malaysia with his wife and children for one year.

From 2021 onwards, David co-directs a new research project on climate change and governance in Indonesia & the Caribbean. “As an institute, we cannot ignore this field. It is of such great importance, especially in the vulnerable tropical archipelagos we study.” The project seeks to bridge research in the social sciences, humanities and natural sciences. “The impact of and adaptation to climate change can only be understood from an interdisciplinary perspective: researching the natural scientific dimensions as well as the reactions of local communities and political institutions. It is crucial that this knowledge is combined.” David Kloos seems ready for this new adventure.

Interview by LeidenGlobal intern Karianne Ooijevaar (February 2021)


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