Prof. dr. Eekelen, B.F. van

Professor of Design, Culture and Society
Department Industrial Design
Section Design Aesthetics

Biography

Prof. Dr. Bregje van Eekelen is Full Professor of Design, Culture and Society.

Van Eekelen received her PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Prior to her appointment in Delft, Van Eekelen was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study's School of Social Science in Princeton in 2017-2018 and a senior researcher History of Social and Human Sciences at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus University. 

As an anthropologist/historian of knowledge Van Eekelen draws on insights from the social sciences (anthropology) and the humanities (history, cultural analysis). Her chair focuses on the reciprocal relations between the world of design (its artifacts, practices and concepts) and the social, cultural, economic and political worlds in which design emerges. These relations are studied dynamically: the chair functions as an interface between the past, present and the future.

Prof. Dr. van Eekelen is an historian of the social and human sciences, including their public lives. She uses a combination of historical and anthropological approaches to the study of knowledge concepts, most notably concepts that are situated on in the contact zone of design, culture and society (e.g. creativity, failure, interdisciplinarity, knowledge economy, design thinking and complexity). Their histories and public lives are not contained within strict disciplines – they are related to social, political and cultural processes, and in turn affect them. Van Eekelen studies the socio-historical conditions of the emergence of these concepts; the knowledge practices, bureaucratic categories, and narratives through which they are stabilized and kept in place or circulate; and how they structure common sense, both in the past and in the present.

Her VENI project Brainstorms: A Cultural History of Undisciplined Thought traces the history of creative thinking in military and industrial settings (1935-1965). Through a detailed analysis of how the notion of 'creativity' emerged and transformed in response to e.g. military and managerial rationalities, the standardization and disciplining of work, and the incorporation of social scientists in corporate America, she seeks to show that the employment of unstructured thought as a productive tool was more than an accident of history.

She is a founding member of the Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge, an interdisciplinary research institute that seeks to foster and coordinate research on public issues and to forge links with extra-academic publics on these issues. It brings together scientists from the social sciences and the humanities and offers them a platform for exchange with other disciplines. At EIPK she was the co-PI for the Research Excellence Initiative Depoliticization and the Public Interest. She is a member of the transdisciplinary research group of the Rotterdam Arts and Sciences Lab. And she is a member of the History Working Group at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. 

Recent articles have been published or are forthcoming in the Journal of Cultural Economy, Economy and Society, Public Culture, Conflict and Society, and the Annual Review of Anthropology. 

Her research has been funded by numerous grants, most recently a Delft Technology Fellowship (300.000 euros), an EUR fellowship (135.000 euros), a VENI grant from the National Science Foundation (250.000 euros) and a Research Excellence Initiative grant (co-PI, 682.000). Others include a University of California Chancellor’s Fellow Grant, Catharina van Tussenbroek Fellowship, Henriette Sara De Lanoy Meijer Fellowship, a Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Fellowship, a Nationale Talentenbeurs, a Fulbright NAF scholarship, a Vrouwe van Renswoude Fellowship, and grants from The University of California Regents.

Involved in the research project(s):