Current PhD-projects

Archisman Chaudhuri - Warfare and economy in South Asia: Aurangzeb’s military campaigns and the VOC (Dutch East India Company) 1680-1710

Straddling across the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb fought wars in the Deccan peninsula and South India, a region of South Asia where the VOC had extensive commercial stakes. I study the impact of these campaigns on the VOC and read the Dutch archives as windows to analyse the interface between coast and hinterland, between oceanic commerce of an early modern European maritime power and the wobbly expansion of a landed empire.

Archisman started his PhD project, which is funded by Erasmus Mundus IBIES, in September 2013.

Byapti Sur - Corruption in the Dutch East India Company in the Seventeenth Century: a case study of the Van Reede committee in Bengal"

My work attempts to draw a connection in the way corruption was conceived in the Dutch East India Company in the Dutch Republic and in the VOC kantoren in India in the seventeenth century. While studying a committee for reform that was constituted in the late 1670s for investigating into the Company’s malpractices; strong undertones of political and ideological factionalism repeatedly surfaced. This in turn pointed to the existence of something more than just a routine VOC check. In the aftermath of the rampjaar, redress was in the air but was however not met with much success. To find an answer for this, my research probes into the missing link between the VOC in patria and its comptoiren in Bengal through the concept of corruption being played out differently in both these settings.

Byapti started her PhD project,which is funded by Erasmus Mundus IBIES, in September 2013.

Mahmood Kooria - the movement of Islamic legal texts across the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean worlds and on the textual discursive development of Shāfiʿī school of law across different geographical and chronological nodal points

Mahmood’s doctoral dissertation is on the movement of Islamic legal texts and ideas between the Middle East, South-, and Southeast-Asia. He focuses mainly on such Shāfi’īte manuals, commentaries, and abridgments like Minhāj al-Talibīn of Nawawī, Tu ḥfat al-Muḥtāj of al-Haytamī and Fat ḥ al-Mu'īn of Malaybārī. He asks how these interconnected texts with a long tradition helps us a) understand the continuity and discontinuity within the Shāfi’ī school since the thirteenth century, b) answer why certain textual genealogies became more significant in the traditional legalist synthesis of texts and practices of both everyday religious lives of laypersons and legal engagements of ulama, and c) analyze the school’s spread across the Indian Ocean and eastern Mediterranean worlds. In the context of scholarly-mercantile connections at such nodal points as Damascus, Alexandria, Cairo, Aden, Ḥaḍramawt, Malabar, Aceh and Java, Mahmood would try to read this textual corpus.

Mahmood started his PhD project, which is funded by Erasmus Mundus IBIES, in September 2013.


Abdur Rahoof Ottathingal - Arabi-Malayalam and the Making of Vernacular Islam in Malabar, South India, 16th to 20th centuries

My study is a historical anthropological investigation into formations and transformations of the Islamic textual culture of Arabi-Malayalam in the local and translocal contexts of Malabar. Understanding social and religious life of Islamic communities beyond prevalent binaries of local-global, oceanic-overland, and scriptural/classical-customary/folk lies at the core of my research concern. Writing local languages in Arabic script was a powerful form of practicing Islamic textuality in different parts of the world connected mainly through the Indian Ocean. Practiced as textual culture, Arabi-Malayalam was vital to the dynamics of Islamic knowledge-community in South India. The diverse variety of Arabi-Malayalam texts that are available from the early seventeenth century offers us rich cultural historical materials illuminating the social contexts of conversions, practices of Islamic learning, influence and institutions of Sufism, political economic dynamics of maritime trade port-polities, cosmopolitan cultural layering, colonial incursions and indigenous responses, all centered around Malabari Muslims, and significantly pointing to their translocal networks.
The 16th century developmental context of Malabari Islam (as a religious community in Keralite geo-cultural crossings, Tamil-Sanskrit-Malayalam interfaces, Indian Ocean currents of Arab trade, and the Portuguese oppression) finds different attention in my study explaining such regionally formed identities as ‘Mappilas’, ‘Malayali Muslim’ and ‘Arabi-Malayalam’ which are otherwise taken for granted. The trajectories of the primary Arabi-Malayalam genre of Mala (Sufi songs) from the 17th c., running among lower social sections through popular institutions, collaborating with the educational practices around Arabic books, continuing through mystical-philosophical literature of the 18th c., coalescing into the passionate Padappattu genre (war songs) from the 19th century context of colonial regime form the focal point of elaboration in the study. Attending to the 20th century formations of Islamic reformism and its regional repercussions, I also try to understand the discursive domain of ‘vernacular Islam’ in which Arabic, Malayalam, and Arabi-Malayalam find different and asymmetric positions. Apart from the story within region, I attempt to compare Arabi-Malayalam textual culture with similar Islamic textual traditions, keyed on Arabic script, rooted in local language and expressed in Sufi textures, such as Arwi/Arabi-Tamil (in South Asia), Jawi (in Southeast Asia), diverse ajami ketab cultures (in Africa), and aljamiado (in Iberian Peninsula). Connections and comparisons will explain the diverse routes of the cosmopolitan script and its emergent roots.
Placing beyond nativistic, nationalistic and Islamicist frames, and attending to more intra-Asian, Indian Ocean and Islamic cultural crossroads my study tries to historically situate Arabi-Malayalam in global and vernacular time. By considering language, religion and region as central categories my attempt is to tell the tangled story of global movement of Arabic script and local sites of Islamic interactions from the 16th to 20th centuries. My historical and anthropological enquiry into trans-formations of Malabari Islam, thus, hopes offering new way of thinking about diversity and commonality of Islamic communities and textualities around the globe, taking vernacular mediations and translocal networks together.

Rahoof started his PhD project, which is funded by Erasmus Mundus IBIES, in September 2013.


Deepshikha Boro - Spinning the web: Guy Tachard between Diplomacy, Mission and Republic of Letters

My PhD work studies the long standing paradigm which considers individual agency the key to engaging with the two empires. Adopting the Jesuit centered perspective, the historical focus on a French missionary Guy Tachard who worked in Siam has left many relevant sources which are underestimated by recent studies. The primary object of my study resonating from contemporary interests in global history is the idea to use the life of the Jesuit Tachard to trace the power of connected history, revealing global connections and movements at the tripartite fields of diplomacy, science and missionary work in the seventeenth century.

Deepshika started her PhD project, which is funded by Erasmus Mundus IBIES, in September 2013.

Sarthak Bagchi - Clientelism and Patronage in Indian Elections: A Comparative Study of the States of Bihar and Maharashtra

The proposed study aims to undertake a systematic comparative study of clientelistic politics in two different states of India, namely, Bihar and Maharashtra. The study further breaks down the analysis of clientelism as seen from three viewpoints – the voters (the client’ view), the mediators/middlemen/naya netas/fixers/ local leaders (the patron’s view) and the state level leadership and political experts (expert view). He aims to focus not only on the number of voters and politicians engaging in a clientelistic relation, but also on the intensity or degree of such clientelistic relations along with the obvious questions of why and how they engage in clientelism, if they do so. He would be at one hand studying the level of engagement in clientelistic politics by the voters and politicians, and on the other hand he would be aiming to study the nature and distinct features of such clientelistic relations in these two different states of India.

Sarthak started his PhD project, which is funded by Erasmus Mundus IBIES, in September 2013.

Tjahjono Prasodjo - Water Management in Brantas River Basin, East- Java, Indonesia from 10th to 16th Centuries

My research focuses on how ancient East Javanese polities with their societies managed water resources in Brantas River Basin, East Java, Indonesia in 10th to 16th centuries.   Since most of the ancient East Javanese political centers were in the basin of the river and they depended on irrigated agriculture, it will be very fascinating to see how the ancient Javanese polities controlled water resources with their power.  My research will examine archaeological, palaeogeographical, and historical sources from the period of 10th to 16th centuries.  My expected result is that I can give explanation of ancient Javanese polities and society in controlling and managing  water resources within their characteristic ecological-niche of 10th-16th centuries  Brantas River basin, with  its geopolitical, sociopolitical and socioeconomic development in the past.

Tjahjono has started his research project in September 2013

Norifumi Daito

The Phd thesis examines the process of structural changes of the trans-regional trade through the Persian Gulf in the eighteenth century, especially focusing on the sugar trade in the Gulf and multiple actors involved in it. To the existing historiography of the region which still stresses eighteenth-century imperial and economic decline, the thesis argues a maintained vitality of the Gulf trade by multi-polarizing sugar markets in and around Iran and corresponding shifts of sugar circulation in Indian Ocean in general and the Gulf in specific, reflected in ups and downs of individual merchants’ fates.

Nori started his research project in 2012.

Ariel Cusi Lopez - Religious Conversion in Minahasa and Sangir archipelago, c. 1830-1900

This study highlights the Minahasan/Sangirese experience of Protestant religious conversion carried out by the Dutch missionary societies in the nineteenth century. The study situates the phenomenon of conversion in the context of local politics and economy in the face of a vigorous Protestant missionary zeal and expanding colonial state. Despite Minahasa and Sangir being adjacent to each other, they experienced different trajectories of Christianization in the same way that their respective political and economic landscapes varied.  By drawing upon the rich yet under-examined Dutch missionary and colonial archives, the study centers the local people’s experiences of conversion entangled as they were with the complementing yet often conflicting interests of the missions and the Dutch colonial state.

Ariel started his PhD research in 2012 at Leiden University.

Sander Tetteroo - Humanitarianism and religion: post-calamity charity in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia (c.1900-1965)

Sander's PhD project 'Humanitarianism and religion: post-calamity charity in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia (c.1900-1965)' explores developments in the organisation of aid to victims of calamities: natural disasters, epidemics and armed conflicts. Indonesia experienced a wide variety of natural disasters throughout its colonial history, ranging from famines and floods to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Particularly severe were famines and epidemics (c.1900; 1950s), the eruptions of the Krakatau (1883), Kelud (1919; 1951) and Merapi (1930; 1954); the Padang Panjang earthquake of 1926 and flash floods (1916; 1950s) provide further case-studies for research. Uprisings against colonial rule (1926/1927), the Indonesian Revolution and rebellions against the new Indonesian state in the 1950s (Darul Islam; Permesta) claimed and displaced many victims and destroyed numerous livelihoods. Often treated separately in histories of humanitarianism, he seeks to bring together the topics of disaster relief and relief for victims of war and violence. He is particularly interested in the principles and motivations behind the organization of aid, focusing on developments in the influence of humanitarian and religious thought on government and private action.


Sander received his B.A. and Research M.A. degrees in History from Leiden University. In 2014 he graduated cum laude on the thesis "Famine in the Netherlands East Indies, c.1900-1904". He has worked at the Huygens Institute for Dutch History for the project "Bookkeeper General Batavia", which in 2012 published an online database of eighteenth-century VOC shipping records. From 2008-2011 he was editor at Leidschrift. Historisch Tijdschrift.

Since September 2014 Sander has been a PhD candidate in the LUF-funded project “The Making of Religious Traditions in Indonesia: History and Heritage in. Global Perspective (1600-1940)”, jointly organized by Leiden University and Universitas Gadjah Mada.


Simon Carlos Kemper

I research the late seventeenth century warfare destroying the Central Javanese sawahs and South Sulawesian coasts and devastating their population. But instead of describing bloodshed, I write about the charisma of warlords, the diversity among their followers and the itineraries they took. Mobility and fraternity stand central, as does the religious glue sticking troops together. The administration of the Dutch East India Company, the oral histories of shrines and the Javanese and Sulawesian court manuscripts reveal these aspects and unravel a military labour market involving European, Javanese, Sulawesian, Malay, Balinese, Madurese and Moluccan warriors shifting allegiances. Overlords, warlords and Batavia all tried to recruit them, but their demand required adaptation to numerous war cults and small war-bands travelling around and across the Java Sea. Most of these cults turn out to centre on shrines spread over the Javanese and Sulawesian landscape. Complemented with a geographical and quantitative analysis of troop movements, deciphering these cults will explain how and why armies came to be. Understanding this makes it easier to fathom the waves of destruction flowing over the Java Sea as well as the quiet water in between in which warriors turned back to farmers but war cults still lasted.

Simon obtained his Research M.A. degree in Colonial and Global History from Leiden University in 2014. Previously he received a Bachelor of Arts at the University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, the Netherlands. In 2014 and 2015 he worked for the Corts Foundation’s project Sejarah Nusantara at the National Archives of Indonesia, contributing to the construction of a database of the diplomatic correspondence of the VOC. Since September 2014 Sander participates in the PhD program “The Making of Religious Traditions in Indonesia: History and Heritage in. Global Perspective (1600-1940)”, jointly organized by Leiden University and Universitas Gadjah Mada.  This has given him the wonderful opportunity to study the Early Modern Islamic polity Mataram from Yogyakarta itself; the kraton heartland.

Johny Khusyairi - Constructing Christian Javanese Elites’ Culture in the Late Colonial Java, 1920-1940s

Johny’s project, entitled ‘Constructing Christian Javanese Elites’ Culture in the Late Colonial Java, 1920-1940s’, provides a cultural history of the Christian Javanese, particularly focusing on the construction of elite’s culture. It further exposes the meaning of western Christianity for the Javanese elites, including the production of their socio-cultural space. For his researchhe draws on documentary sources such as administrative reports, newspapers, as well as oral history sources housed in personal, private and state institutions. His project contributes to scholarship on westernity, modernity, hybridity and gender in the late colonial state of Indonesia.

Johny obtained his B.A. and M.A. degrees in Sociology from Gadjah Mada University in 1997 and 2005 respectively. He further received a B.A. degree and M.A. degree in History from Leiden University in 2008 and 2009, as part of the Encompass programme. He has lectured history at Airlangga University, Surabaya. Since 2013 he is a PhD candidate in the LUF-sponsored PhD programme ‘The Making of Religious Tradition in Indonesia: History and Heritage in Global Perspective (1600-1940)’, jointly organised by Leiden University and Gadjah Mada University.


Yulianti focuses on the emergence of Buddhism in early twentieth-century Indonesia and after Indonesian independence. The rise of Buddhism in Southeast Asia has mostly been placed within the context of revivalism, and most of these studies exclude Indonesia. Hence, she wants to investigate how global religious movements, particularly Theravada Buddhism, reached colonial Indonesia and interacted with the Buddhism already known among the peranakan Chinese there, Mahayana Buddhism. She explores the transnational networks and local agencies involved in the process of the making of Buddhism in (post)colonial Indonesia. This includes women’s involvement in the activity, as various sources indicate it was one of the unique features of modern Buddhism in Indonesia.  

Yulianti received her B.A in Buddhist studies from the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University (Myanmar) in 2005. She then obtained a Masters degree at the Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Study at Gadjah Mada University. She completed a second Masters degree in Religious Studies from Florida International University in 2010. After completing her Masters degrees, she taught Buddhism at the Kertarajasa Buddhist College. Finally in 2012, she received an Encompass scholarship from Leiden University to study history. The next year, she began her current position as PhD candidate in the project ‘The Making of Religious Tradition in Indonesia: History and Heritage in Global Perspective (1600-1940)’, jointly organized by Leiden University and Gadjah Mada University.

Her email addresses: or

Last Modified: 09-02-2016