Prestigious Humboldt scholarship for Marileen La Haije

Date of news: 14 April 2022

Marileen La Haije (Radboud Institute for Culture and History (RICH)) has been awarded a prestigious German Alexander von Humboldt scholarship. With this grant, she will spend two years at the University of Cologne researching art collectives that expose human rights violations in psychiatric institutions in Latin America.

Marileen La Haije is a researcher and lecturer in Hispanic cultural studies at the Faculty of Arts. The Humboldt Research Fellowship Programme for Postdocs enables highly qualified scientists who are at the beginning of their academic careers to carry out research in Germany for a longer period of time. Fellowships of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation are considered to be among the most prestigious research grants in the world. The worldwide Humboldt network includes 50 Nobel Prize winners.

Art, mental health, and human rights

With the Humboldt grant, La Haije will work for two years with Professor of Romance Literature Bieke Willem, at the University of Cologne. Prof. Willem is a renowned Hispanist specialising in Latin American literature and culture. The Romanisches Seminar in Cologne is also one of the largest German institutes in the field of Romance languages and cultures.

In Cologne, La Haije will focus on artistic productions (such as literature, film, dance, and music) that address human rights violations in psychiatric institutions in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. ‘With this grant, I can put activist art about mental health on the map in Latin America, in cooperation with artists, activists, and researchers', says La Haije. In Latin America, progress has been made in several areas in the treatment of psychiatric patients in recent years, but overmedication, long-term isolation, and other malpractices still occur. 'In 2017, Frente de Artistas del Borda (FAB), an Argentine artist collective affiliated with the El Borda psychiatric hospital, organised an exhibition in a former concentration camp’, La Haije says. ‘This exhibition links the victims of forced disappearances during the dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983) and the El Borda patients of today.

New research material

The socially critical exhibition does not stand alone. There is an extensive and diverse repertoire of activist art on mental health. La Haije now wants to use this repertoire as new research material to understand how art collectives in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay practice human rights activism around mental health. La Haije: 'Among other things, I will investigate how today's activist art collectives relate to Latin American human rights movements and to what extent artistic productions can be seen as testimonies of human rights violations. Until now, this has never been systematically researched. With my research, I hope to offer new insights on how art can contribute to the protection of the rights of people with mental vulnerability.’

Marileen La Haije will start her research at the University of Cologne in September 2022.