TAPAS/Thinking About the PASt is an interdisciplinary forum for reflection on various relationships with the past.
In the course of the last few years, there has been a growing interest in our relationship with the past in a large variety of cultural and social areas. Examples are studies of history, memory, and identity, historical trauma studies, the history of knowledge, post-colonial studies, as well as the more traditional philosophy and methodology of historiography. What is special about this scholarship is its pre-eminent trans-disciplinary character. Indeed, there are tendencies to reflect on our relationship with the past in many different disciplines, yet doing so does not hold a mainstream position in any of them. As a consequence, researchers who are interested in reflecting on engagements with the past often find themselves isolated within their own discipline.
The aim of TAPAS is to change this situation by bringing together researchers from different disciplines. We aim to reflect on various relationships with the past, which include popular, literary, and scientific engagements. This initiative is meant in the first place for young researchers (pre- and post-doc) working in Belgium and the Netherlands, but in principle it is open to all. We regularly invite artists, educators, heritage professionals, and other people who engage the past on a daily basis.
The main aim of this project is to give young researchers the opportunity to share their views with their colleagues, to create a broad intellectual network, to get feedback about their own work, and to organize trans-disciplinary reading groups and workshops.
If you want to present your work or attend our activities, please reach out to us! TAPAS is a forum which means that there is no single goal, approach or method. The intention is to bring together different approaches and methods rather than propagate one of them.
Berber Bevernage is associate professor of historical theory at the Department of History at Ghent University. His research focuses on the dissemination, attestation and contestation of historical discourse and historical culture in post-conflict situations. Berber is (co-)founder of the interdisciplinary research forum ‘TAPAS/Thinking About the PASt’, and together with colleagues he established the International Network for Theory of History which aims to foster collaboration and the exchange of ideas among theorists of history around the world.
Eline Mestdagh is a historian and works as a FWO doctoral fellow at the Department of History at Ghent University. Among her interests are the recent manifestations of memory activism in the Netherlands and in Belgium. In her Master thesis, she investigated the uses of the past in the activism of Kick Out Zwarte Piet, a network of activists that mobilizes against the stereotypical figure of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in the Netherlands. Her current research deals with ongoing memory conflicts on the public (re)presentation of the Belgian colonial past, where she is specifically interested in the argumentative role of historical cultures and their underlying assumptions about time, historiography and the proper way to ‘deal with the past’.
Marie-Gabrielle Verbergt is a PhD Student at Ghent University (FWO, 2018-2023) working at the intersection of theory of history, historiography, the history of European integration, and the sociology of knowledge. She has obtained her BA in History at the University of Leuven (2016), holds an MA in History from Ghent University (2017) and an MA in the Social Sciences from The University of Chicago (2018), where she was a Fulbright Student Grantee and B.A.E.F. Baillet Latour Fellow 2017-2018. Her current work focuses on the epistemic aspects of EU-sponsored uses of the past between 1970 and today. She is especially interested in the European production and institutionalization of ideas on evidence, objectivity, anachronism, and the selection of ‘appropriate’ forms to transmit various types of knowledge about the past.
Rafael Verbuyst is a Junior Postdoctoral researcher at the History Department of Ghent University, funded by the Flemish Research Foundation (FWO). He has training in History, Anthropology and African Studies, and has studied at Ghent University, Leiden University and the University of the Western Cape. Rafael has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork in South Africa since 2015. His current project centers on Khoisan activism in South Africa, indigeneity, the uses of the past and settler-colonial studies. He has previously published in New Contree, Anthropology Southern Africa and Social Dynamics. A book based on his 2021 PhD thesis (“Khoisan Consciousness: Articulating Indigeneity in Post-apartheid Cape Town”) completed at Ghent University and the University of the Western Cape, is forthcoming with Brill Publishers/University of Cape Town Press.
Walderez Ramalho is an adjunct professor in historical theory at the Department of History of the State University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. He has received his PhD from the Federal University of Ouro Preto in 2021, working at the intersection between theory and philosophy of history, history of historiography, and contemporary history. He has completed his licentiate degree in History at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (2012), and he also holds and MA in History from the same university (2015). During August 2019 and June 2020, he was a visiting PhD student at Ghent University, becoming one of the organizing members of TAPAS. His research deals with the notion of kairos as an experiential structure of historical time. He is especially interested in investigating unconventional forms of historical writing that spell out a kairological experience of historical time, with special emphasis on political and artistic manifestos written in the first half of the twentieth century. Walderez remains a TAPAS member during his stay in Brazil, co-preparing and following the TAPAS activities online.
TAPAS regularly collaborates with other research fora and groups:
- CARAM/Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality: CARAM – meaning ‘generosity’ (karam) in Arabic – brings together researchers in the humanities and social sciences who work in the fields of materiality, affect, the body, religion and/or ethnicity at Ghent University, Belgium.
- Cultural Memory Studies Initiative (CMSI): the Cultural Memory Studies Initiative (CMSI) brings together scholars from across the humanities whose research revolves around memory and trauma as mediated through culture.
- MENARG/Middle East and North Africa Research Group: MENARG is a research group dedicated to the production of knowledge and insight into the politics, society, and economy of the contemporary Middle East and North Africa. We are housed within the Department of Conflict and Development Studies ( Faculty of Political and Social Sciences) at Ghent University, Belgium.
- Instituut voor Publieksgeschiedenis (IPG): Het Interuniversitair Instituut voor Publieksgeschiedenis (IPG) organiseert onderwijs, onderzoek en dienstverlening over alle vormen van omgang met geschiedenis in de samenleving in het heden en het verleden.
- International Network for the Theory of History (INTH): INTH in an international network for the theory of history, facilitating exchange of ideas and contacts in the field of historical theory. INTH organizes biannual network conferences, published reviews, hosts an online repository of members, and updates a bibliography with over 20 000 titles in the field of theory of history.
A selection of interesting research institutes abroad:
- Thinking About History and Historical Culture (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Netherlands): research unit with expertise in the metahistorical reflection of history and culture.
- Metahistorias (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentinia): research unit with expertise on the philosophical investigation and theoretical reflection on the epistemological, practical-political, and ontological underpinnings activated when representing the past.
- Histcon (Södertörn University, Sweden): home to Time, Memory and Representation, a multidisciplinary Program on Transformations in Historical Consciousness.
- Network of Concerned Historians: In October 1995, the Network of Concerned Historians (NCH) was established at the History Department of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. The purpose of the Network was and still is to serve as a small observatory and to provide a bridge between international human-rights organizations campaigning for persecuted historians on the one hand and the global community of historians on the other.
- Center for Historical Culture (Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands): The CHC functions as an intellectual forum for scholars in the field of historical culture.
- Historia Pensada: Latin American Network for Theory of History
- International Commission for the History and Theory of Historiography: nonprofit organization affiliated to the Comité International des Sciences Historiques (CISH). The Association brings together scholars interested or engaged in research and teaching into history and theory of historiography.
- Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada): The Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness was founded in 2001 as part of the awarding of the Canada Research Chair in Historical Consciousness to Dr. Peter Seixas. It was active for the following decade and a half, until his retirement in June, 2016.
- Claimed Pasts (University of Adger, Norway): The Claimed Pasts research group addresses larger societal and historical backdrops against which materials become desired historical objects. They organize brown bag zoom seminars and PhD courses on topics such as uses of the past, heritage management, cultural policies, etc.
- Cultura Historica: web portal and bibliography on historical culture, theory of history, and historiography.
- History and Theory: Studies in the Philosophy of History: journal, published at Wesleyan University, USA.