Research in Context Essay #1:
Review of Gerard van der Ree’s Guest Lecture
When Dr Gerard van der Ree, lecturer in politics at University College Utrecht, first steps into the classroom on a sleepy Monday morning, he doesn’t make much of an impression. After being introduced, he makes a small joke about having gotten up early on his day off, and the students lean back and prepare for a long, boring lecture. Not long after, however, van der Ree has each and every person in the room furiously taking notes and following his every word. From beginning to end, his speech is concise, yet involving.
He begins by introducing the theme of the lecture, and, as we will later find out, of his work: Dr van der Ree is interested in “knowing the world”-…show more content… This method rarely works for presenters, but he is able to stay focused and maintain his audience’s attention even without the aid of bullet points. From the very beginning, he engages them with open questions. Most of the time, he does not appear to be looking for a specific answer, but is rather interested in opening up discussions. After the end of his lecture, he also allows for some time for the students to ask their own questions, which range from wondering about his stance on the importance of empirical data to his interest in doing field…show more content… He is inspired by the works of Martin Heidegger and his disciple, Hans-Georg Gadamer, who introduced the idea of “learning from the Other”. Instead of seeing intercultural differences as a hurdle to be overcome, they see them as an opportunity to grow and learn. Rather than explaining a culture, the way that his colleagues working as anthropologists would, van der Ree is more interested in understanding it as well as he can, and, in doing so, gaining new perspectives on life. He makes use of the German word “Verstehen”, used by Max Weber in a similar context, to illustrate his point. Literally, verstehen means to understand, but by separating it into its two words of origin -”ver”, and “stehen”-, it literally means to “re-stand”. When we are faced with a point of view that is drastically different from ours, we tend to lose our balance; the trick is to regain it, but stand slightly differently, meaning our understanding has grown. Obviously, eliminating preconceived notions is not easy, but van de Ree certainly makes it sound fun. In closing, he tells us that each encounter with the unknown is an opportunity for “challenge and enchantment”. His eyes are glowing. He seems like a man with a mission. Whatever that mission may be, van der Ree has certainly achieved one thing: he has raised questions in his audience’s minds, questions which are not easily answered. On their way out, the students discuss