Isa Corbeek

Portrait Isa Corbeek
The safe and challenging environment encourages me to work on my skills and perspectives as an Anthropologist and Development Studies Scientist.
Isa Corbeek
Anthropology and Development Studies
Study start date
Previous education
Culturele Antropologie en Ontwikkelingsstudies

Isa Corbeek was a Master's student Anthropology and Development Studies.

What did you like about the Master's programme and why?

From an early age I have been eager to understand the nature of human interactions. I often wonder why people interact with each other in ways they do and what normative thoughts are behind their actions. In the past couple of years I have gained a growing interest in not only interactions among humans but also interactions among humans and nature. My main motivation for following this Master's programme in Anthropology and Development Studies, with a track in human-nature interactions, steams from this interest in studying and understanding how humans live in close contact with nature. Today, the relationship between humans and nature is under pressure as it affects the capacity of communities and ecosystems to absorb environmental and societal shocks. Because of this programme, I am not only able to analyse these complex and dynamic interactions between humans and nature, but I can also attribute to formulating and rethinking ways for societies to improve their ways of living together with their environment.

What did you think about the atmosphere in class?

In my experience, teachers are easy to approach and students are always willing to help each other out. I feel supported and appreciated by the teachers, as well as the other students of the programme. I think the programme does a wonderful job in making the students feel comfortable to share and develop their perspectives on contemporary societal and environmental challenges. This safe, but challenging, environment encourages me to work on my skills and perspectives as an Anthropologist and Development Studies Scientist.

What did you find most challenging in your Master’s programme? Have you encountered any obstacles?

It is very interesting and challenging to unravel and grasp different lenses through which people perceive the (natural) world. In addition, it is fascinating to learn how these ways of seeing the world are created and maintained by culture. At the same time, I find it sometimes depressing that many people still pursue an unsustainable way of living.

The fact that, in general, humans still treat the environment very badly makes me often wonder how I will ever be able to contribute to humans living in solidarity with nature. However, the conversations and discussions with fellow students and the teachers are often very inspiring and hopeful!

What was your thesis about?

For my Master's thesis, I have conducted fieldwork in the neighbourhood of Lunetten, in the city of Utrecht. I focused on the establishment and perception of human-plant relations in domestic gardens. One of the questions I asked myself was: How do people reflect on the presence of weeds in their gardens? In conducting this research I collaborated with the Foundation 'Steenbreek' and the Foundation 'Present Utrecht'. They focus on making domestic gardens greener in order to improve the city's biodiversity. During this fieldwork period, I was in close contact with the residents of the neighbourhood, learning from them through in-depth interviews and participant observations. This research made me see the natural world of the domestic garden through many new perspectives.

Why do you think it is important that there are people out there with this degree?

Anthropologists and Development Studies Scientists are not only able to grasp a proper understanding of people’s beliefs and life choices, but they also have adopted strong (social) skills to connect and work with, people and their worldviews. Because of this, they are able to connect different groups of people and their ideas. In addition, I think they are well equipped to translate these perspectives in concrete policies and interventions which we need to make the world a more sustainable place.

I am very glad that I have developed these skills and perspectives and I would like to raise more awareness for how normative ideas on human-nature interactions are constructed, how they influence our actions, and how these ideas can be transformed into more sustainable worldviews. I can imagine myself doing this in various ways. For example as a project coordinator that works on projects that aim to connect humans and nature; as a teacher who tries to create more awareness for these topics among students; or as a researcher conducting my own societal relevant research on human-plant relations.