Mission statement:

The Postcolonial Studies Initiative (PCI) at Utrecht University is intended as a platform for research into postcolonial issues, specifically focused on their application within Europe. The PCI organises activities such as lectures, film series, masterclasses and seminars, striving for greater interaction with society at large. As such it brings together a number of researchers from diverse areas and disciplines, both from Utrecht University and from other universities in the Netherlands as well as from other international partner universities. 

The Postcolonial Studies Initiative seeks to engage with issues that concern the analysis of former colonial structure, which may have been abolished but whose at times haunting legacy still remains and informs not just formerly colonised areas but Europe as well. The PCI seeks to engage with such issues from a conviction of the need to articulate diverse theoretical approaches in the humanities and social sciences in reference to current social, political, and cultural phenomena. One area of special interest concerns the comparative study of colonial and postcolonial formations as well as the study of lesser understood, or lesser hegemonic, forms of colonial and postcolonial expression.

The PCI organises annual public lectures by internationally recognised scholars from different disciplines, a new Postcolonial Film Series, masterclasses and workshops by experts in the field, and it proposes a lecture series on New Directions in Literary Postcolonial Studies by international and national scholars working in the fields of literary studies. Furthermore, the PCI offers several teaching formats at undergraduate and postgraduate level and contributes to international research projects in order to give them greater visibility and coherence. 

Postcolonial Intellectuals and their European Public (PIN)

This is a 3 year project (2019-2021) funded by the NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research)-programme Internationalisation in the Humanities. See here:

Who are the postcolonial intellectuals, which of them are currently the most influential and how do they contribute to a new idea of “Europe”? This innovative international network challenges the traditional definition of the “intellectual” by emphasizing the role of migrants, artists, activists and social movements.


Postcolonial Intellectuals and their European Publics network (PIN) brings together an international and interdisciplinary network of scholars to investigate the role of postcolonial public intellectuals as crucial actors in renewing the function of the humanities and of democratic participation in Europe.


International partners

  • Utrecht University, NL (Sandra Ponzanesi, PI)
  • University of Leeds (Graham Huggan, John McLeod, Max Silverman)
  • University of Warwick, UK (Paulo de Medeiros)
  • University of Münster, Germany (Mark Stein)
  • University of Lisbon, Portugal (Ana C. Mendes)
  • Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy (Sabrina Marchetti and Shaul Bassi)
  • Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark (Bolette B. Blaagaard)
  • INALCO, France (Daniela Merolla)
  • University of Newcastle, UK (Neelam Srivastava)


See previous conferences from the PIN Network:

1- Utrecht University (5-6 February 2019)

Postcolonial Intellectuals and Their European Publics

2-University of Muenster (4-6 September 2019) – In collaboration with the University of Lisbon

Intellectuals Across Borders: Writers, Artists, Activists

3- University of Leeds (21/22 and 28/29 January 2021)

Postcolonial Bauman Lecture Series


Upcoming final conference

Postcolonial publics: art and citizen media in Europe

Ca' Foscari University of Venice (26-27th of May 2022) - In collaboration with Alborg University


First conference organized at Utrecht University, 5-6 February, 2019
Postcolonial Intellectuals and their European Publics


Organized by Sandra Ponzanesi

more info here:

Keynotes Speakers

Prof. Kaiama Glover, Professor of French and Africana Studies
Barnard College, Columbia University

Prof. Awam Amkpa, Professor
New York University | Tisch School of the Arts

Second Conference  
Intellectuals Across Borders: Writers, Artists, Activists

University of Muenster (4-6 September 2019) – In collaboration with the University of Lisbon

Intellectuals Across Borders: Writers, Artists, Activists

Organized by Mark U. Stein and Ana C. Mendes
Keynotes Speakers

Johny Pitts (

John Sundholm (Universityof Stockholm)

Matthias de Groof (University of Antwerp)

Third Conference The Postcolonial Bauman Lecture Series

University of Leeds (21/22 and 28/29 January 2021)

Postcolonial Bauman Lecture Series

Feature Speakers (recorded lectures available through the link):


Julian Go (University of Chicago)

Manuela Boatcă (University of Freiburg)

Shalini Randeria (University of Vienna)

Griselda Pollock (University of Leeds)


Upcoming conference -

Final conference

Postcolonial publics: art and citizen media in Europe

Ca' Foscari University of Venice (26-27th of May 2022) - In collaboration with Alborg University


CFP: Postcolonial publics: art and citizen media in Europe

We are delighted to invite contributions to a conference paper  on the topic of postcolonial publics expressed and engaged through “citizen media” (Rodriguez 2001; Baker & Blaagaard 2016) and art, in a postcolonial Europe. The conference papers will also serve as chapters for an edited volume which will be published soon after. 

We want to interrogate the proliferation of digital media and global culture, and the changes happening in public intellectual engagements. From the adoration of the single (often male, often white) genius to the anonymity of diverse, affective publics, a postcolonial perspective invites contemporary public engagement to have many faces and multiple voices, and addressing new issues such as the environmental crisis and the resurgence of racism. Creativity and art can play a significant role in this development. Performance and visual expressions in the European space interpellate the situated public, but also produce transnational political dialogue and travel across digital space. Embodied performances challenge the cerebral stereotype and classical conception of what public engagement is and should be. Moreover, digital platforms have made available space for expressions that break the form and formulas of public and political speech. However, despite the expansion of public participation, social divisions based on race, gender, sexuality and able-bodiedness still hold sway and begs the question of positionality in relations to institutions, in the different fields of art and media, when it comes to political and social change.

The edited volume and conference envision postcolonial citizen media and art as practices and products encompassing a wide range of expressions: from poetry to journalism to Twitter-writing; from art to graffiti to Instagram-activism; and from celebrity activism to the uprising of “affective publics” (Papacharissi 2015).  

Topics for contributions may include but are not limited to:
- Migrant social media narratives (visual, aural, performative)
- Exiled artists’ political expressions of citizenship and belonging
- Social movements’ visual tactics and digital strategies
- Celebrity activism and co-optation on gender, race and postcolonial issues
- Citizen journalism and postcolonial counterpublics
- Street art, performance and public engagement in postcolonial Europe
- Questions of citizenship, voice and witnessing, in a postcolonial perspective
- Media activism, academic activism, artivism for a postcolonial Europe
- Postcolonial media and art interventions in the environmental crisis

The publication and conference is part of the Postcolonial Intellectuals and Their European Publics Network, (PIN), which is funded by the NWO. The network brings together international and interdisciplinary scholars, activists, and artists to explore the changing face and voice of the European intellectuals in a postcolonial Europe. This publication and conference are jointly organized by the Centre Humanities and Social Change at Ca’ Foscari University, The Department of Communication and Psychology at Aalborg University, Copenhagen, and the 
Department of Media and Culture Studies, Utrecht University.

The conference will take place in Venice on the 26-27th of May 2022. Keynote speakers will be announced in due time. The publication based on the conference papers will follow soon after. Authors selected for the volume will be invited to the conference to present the final drafts of their papers. Final chapters will be 7,000 words all included. The volume will be published by Ca’ Foscari University Press as Open Access eBook in the Summer 2022

If you are interested in contributing, please submit your abstract (max. 500 words) by the 15th of June at the following email address: 

International partners

  • Utrecht University, NL (Sandra Ponzanesi, PI)
  • University of Leeds (Graham Huggan, John McLeod, Max Silverman)
  • University of Warwick, UK (Paulo de Medeiros)
  • University of Münster, Germany (Mark Stein)
  • University of Lisbon, Portugal (Ana C. Mendes)
  • Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy (Sabrina Marchetti and Shaul Bassi)
  • Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark (Bolette B. Blaagaard)
  • INALCO, France (Daniela Merolla)
  • University of Newcastle, UK (Neelam Srivastava)


Every year numerous migrants enter Europe legally and illegally, constructing and sustaining transnational networks through online technologies. These ‘connected migrants’ reconfigure notions of identity, gender and belonging and contribute to a new understanding of Europe as a multidirectional networked society.


PhD1: Digital Diasporas: London 

PhD2: Digital Diasporas: Amsterdam 

PhD3: Digital Diasporas: Rome 

Postdoc: Homelands


Focusing on female migrant diaspora from Somalia, Turkey and Romania living in Europe’s main metropolitan centres (London, Amsterdam, Rome) is relevant for several reasons: 1) it makes it possible to address different patterns of gender migration and integration in Europe (colonial, labour, postsocialist) that account for Europe’s imperial past, as well as post-war patterns of migration and processes of European integration; 2) it explores countries (UK, the Netherlands, Italy) that are heavy receivers of historically different migrant flows and have undergone several shifts in state multicultural policies; 3) it explores the dynamic of European, as well as emerging transnational cities (Istanbul, Mogadishu and Bucharest), as cosmopolitan hubs where difference and conviviality are often grafted into each other, radiating from the local to the global. 


Digital Crossings in Europe aims to advance a novel and comprehensive study on gendered migrant networks in Europe. Drawing from the humanities and social sciences the projects combines media and communication studies with gender and postcolonial studies, providing a qualitative approach to the emerging field of critical data studies, while also contributing to the development of postcolonial digital humanities. To this end, the project will work with a mixed methodology that combines digital methods for data visualisation and network analysis in combination with virtual ethnography, in-depth interviews, photo-elicitation techniques and discourse analysis. This will make user-generated digital footprints across applications emerge as hybridised and heterogeneous forms of participation that change the way we understand and account for social inclusion, gender emancipation, intercultural identities and the idea of Europe itself.

The project is organized through 3 Phds projects, one postdoc and a synthetic overview by the principal investigator on postcolonial digital humanities: 

The project focuses on migrant women (aged 18-40) who have settled in Europe’s main cities (London, Amsterdam, Rome), in dialogue with family and loved ones they have left behind (Somalia, Rumania, Turkey). The focus on gender migration, i.e. female migration, is motivated by the so-called femininisation of migration. Though a substantial body of theoretical, policy and case study literature has been produced on female migrants in Europe, the full extent of their digital participation and agency in diverse migratory processes has not been adequately acknowledged and assessed. Global scale female migratory flows are connected to family reunion, arranged marriages, love-chain and care-drain, but also to more unsettling issues such as trafficking of women, or women escaping violent conflict.

Drawing from the humanities and social sciences the project proposes to map and theorise new forms of digital diasporas contributing to the debate on critical data studies and advancing the field of postcolonial digital humanities. It will do so by integrating qualitative and quantitative methods combining media and communication studies with gender and postcolonial studies (digital methods, virtual ethnography, photo-elicitations and discourse analysis).

Follow this research at the ERC project CONNECTINEUROPE? website here

‘Postcolonial Intellectuals in Europe. Figures, Ideas and Connectins’ financed by Institutions for Open Society (IOS)

Public intellectuals such as Franz Fanon, Edward Said, Stuart Hall, Gayatri Spivak, Paul Gilroy or Tariq Ramadan among others have played a key role in the shaping of public opinion and contributing to a more balanced and nuanced understanding of the relation between Europe and its others, often present for centuries within.

This project investigates the role and impact of ‘(post)colonial’ public intellectuals in Europe. What is an intellectual, and what is his/her role in the twentieth-first century? What is specific to ‘postcolonial’ intellectuals and how do they relate to past and present dynamics in Europe? Which are the figures, ideas, networks that they established across borders and time? The role of public intellectuals is particularly complex for (post)colonial intellectuals who juggle contending regimes of political representations, individual and collective, playing a crucial role among their community as well as in the host society.

By choosing a (post)colonial framework, and by focusing on intellectuals with networks across the globe and in Europe, this research project attempts to analyse how postcolonial intellectuals contributed to new conceptions of the role of intelligentsia, and of concepts of equality, emancipation and transnational citizenship.

The focus is on: 
  • Definitions of the (postcolonial) 
  • Intellectual (Post)colonial public figures and celebrities Transnational public sphere 
  • Gender and Religion 
  • Citizenship and identity 
  • Europe and cosmopolitanism 
  • Media representations and reception
The project pays attention to issues that epitomize the tensions between dominant concepts of citizenship and the role of immigrant intellectuals: freedom of speech; tensions between ‘objective’ civic institutions and processes of ethnic identification; gender and ethnic relations, and the transnational and viral character of social networks. Though not limited to it, the focus will be on three periods (the interwar period, decolonization, multiculturalism), analyzing the transitions that the figure of the public intellectual underwent in these crucial periods. They relate to specific moments in the history of (post)colonial relations, to the main phases of the migration of intellectuals to Europe, as well as to various stages in the formation of European identities and the crystallization of a European Community or Union.

Postcolonial Europe Network (PEN)

The project starts 1 September 2011 and lasts for 3 year. The subsidy is granted by the NWO-programme Internationalisation in the Humanities.

The project conducted by Dr Sandra Ponzanesi and Prof. Paulo de Medeiros (Utrecht University) aims at establishing an international platform for developing research into new forms of conceptualising Europe from a multidisciplinary perspective, engaging several disciplines in the Humanities (literary, media, gender studies) and the Social Sciences (sociology, political theory). PEN aims to develop theoretical and methodological tools for representing and imagining Europe in a postcolonial and postimperial perspective.
The project analyses concrete historical events such as the adoption of treaties by the various European states and their consequences, issues in political theory and political philosophy such as the notions of sovereignty, borders, and law, as well as their representations in a variety of media from literature to film and popular culture.

The main aim is to develop theoretical and methodological tools, based on particular case studies, to discuss future ideas of Europe in a postcolonial and postimperial perspective. The project aims to significantly contribute to existing knowledge, and prepare the ground for future multi-disciplinary research, bridging some gaps in current discipline-bound scholarship, and asserting the importance of culture in general, and Humanities-based research in particular, for imagining models for a European polity.

The project will focus on the organisation of international conferences on the issues of Europe and its Fluid Borders, Cultural Memory and the Postcolonial and on the New European Polity, publications in international journals and the creation of a digital platform on postcolonial Europe.

International partners

Sandra Ponzanesi (Media and Culture Studies, Gender Studies) and Paulo de Medeiros (Modern Languages, Portuguese) work together in this project with colleagues from Utrecht University and with partners from:
  • University of Leeds (Graham Huggan, John McLeod, Max Silverman)
  • University of Munich (Tobias Doering, Christopher Balme, Robert Stockhammer)
  • London School of Economics (Paul Gilroy and Marsha Henry)
  • University of Roskilde and Iceland (Lars Jensen and Kristín Loftsdóttir)
  • University of Naples (Iain Chambers).
 The project builds on and expand the previous AHRC (Arts and Humanities Reearch Council) funded network Postcolonial Europe.
For more information see:

High Potential Programme: International Research Project, Utrecht University.
Wired up. Digital media as innovative socialization practices for migrant youth.

In this project, carried out in collaboration with psychologist Mariëtte de Haan (Social Sciences, UU) and literary ethnographer Kevin Leander (Vanderbilt University, USA, Education and Human Development) we focus on how new digital media practices involving the Internet (e.g., information seeking, instant messaging, chat, web logs, the production and distribution of multi-media) impact on the lives, identities, learning and socialization of migrant youth. Migrancy, central to this program, embeds many of the local and global paradoxes that also pertain to digital media with their compression of space and time. However the link between the two fields is still under-theorised and is in need of more situated and comparative research. The project aims to monitor, evaluate and assess the socio-cultural specificities of the interaction between youth and digital media in a comparative perspective (migrants versus native Dutch, Moroccan migrants in the Netherlands versus Mexican migrants in the USA, female versus male). The comparative research focuses on a) identity construction and global representations, b) development of new learning strategies and socialization patterns, c) new forms of digital literacy and youth networks, and d) differences and similarities of these dynamics in a cross-national comparison. The project aims to locate the study of the effects of digital media in relation to socio-cultural configurations mediated by nationality, gender and ethnicity.

For more information visit


7th European Framework Programme (2009-2013). 


Transnational Digital Networks: Migration and Gender

MIG@NET explores how migrant individuals and communities participate in the production and transformation of transnational digital networks and the effect of transnational digital networks on migrant mobility and integration. Transnational digital networks are studied as instances of socio-economic, gender, racial, and class hierarchies, where the participation of migrant communities entails the possibility of challenging these hierarchies. The participation of migrant communities - at times inclusive, joining in larger transnational digital projects, at times exclusive, creating separate and relatively closed transnational spaces - is investigated in detail through particular case studies in seven thematic areas: Border Crossings, Communication and Information Flows, Education and Knowledge, Religious Practices, Sexualities, Social Movements, Intercultural Conflict and Dialogue. The project addresses these issues through a tripartite conceptual and methodological approach: a) a critical approach to the separation between the digital and the real; b) a transnational approach to migration and c) an intersectional approach to gender. Participants are: Panteion University, coordinator (Greece); Symfiliosi (Cyprus); Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (France); University of Hamburg (Germany); University of Bologna (Italy); Utrecht University (The Netherlands); The Peace Institute (Slovenia) and the University of Hull (UK).
Sandra Ponzanesi is Utrecht coordinator of the work package on ‘Religious Practices’ (with Eva Midden) in collaboration with the University of Hull (UK) and Panteion University (Greece) and participant in the work Package on ‘Education and Knowledge’ (with Koen Leurs) in collaboration with Bologna University, work package coordinator (Italy) and Panteion University (Greece).
For further information see:

Other related Research Networks:  

Postcolonial Europe
Athena 3: Postcolonial Europe: Postcolonial Europe is one of the projects of Athena, an Advanced Thematic Network in Activities in Women's Studies in Europe which brings together over 120 institutes from 27 countries in the interdisciplinary field of Women's Studies and gender research. The working group is now hosted under AtGender: The European Association for Gender Research