Gabriel Harmsen winner of the second edition Dr. Albert van der Zeijdenthesis Prize

The Dr. Albert van der Zeijden Thesis Prize 2023 has been won by Gabriel Harmsen. This was announced on Wednesday afternoon, March 20, during a festive ceremony in Utrecht.

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An inspiring meeting

The prize was awarded by the Dutch Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage (KIEN) in collaboration with Utrecht University to a student who wrote an excellent thesis with intangible heritage as the main theme. Prior to the ceremony, Prof. Dr. Lynn Meskell gave the annual Heritage Lecture by the UU's Heritage and Public History Lab. Meskell spoke through various cases about the paradoxical effect of UNESCO in wanting to work on world peace through heritage, but being hampered by the political and diplomatic field in which UNESCO moves.

A total of ten theses were submitted, after which three were nominated for the prize. After the inspiring Heritage Lecture, these three nominees were given the stage to present their research. Gabriel Harmsen was then announced as the winner by Saskia van Oostveen, head of KIEN.

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v.l.n.r. Gabriel Harmsen, Trudy Otterspeer en Saskia van Oostveen

Renewal and deepening

Gabriel Harmen's thesis is entitled 'Traditional Folk Music in a Polarizing Europe. An expedient to cultural sovereignty' and was written at Utrecht University for the Master Musicology. Harmsen received a cash prize of 1,000 euros and received an IP Trophy: a traditional pottery, designed and made by Trudy Otterspeer.

The assessment committee praises Harmsen's well-written thesis for its in-depth theoretical reflection and the innovative connections that are made with political concepts. The thesis has a lot of topical value in the current political climate in the world. Harmsen clearly shows how heritage can be used for political purposes and illustrates this with a case study about Ethno Sweden. He examines this music camp in relation to Swedish cultural policy and speculates on how it may be affected by the national government's recent shift to the right.


Honorable mentions go to the theses of Valentine Goossens from the University of Antwerp and Andreas Simons from the Catholic University of Leuven. Goossens wrote the thesis 'LEONARDO CISNEIROS OCCUPATION Recife. The residents and their residential cultures', a beautiful and extensive field study that shows a lot of commitment to the research. The thesis reflects very well on what the observations mean for existing theory. Goossens takes an inclusive perspective in her reflection by not only using the so-called standard literature. Simons' thesis, Natural Language Processing on Limburgish: a non-standardized, low-resource language, is praised by the committee for the interesting linking of the Limburgish dialect to artificial intelligence to keep the language alive. The committee is very enthusiastic about the possibilities that this research can offer for the innovation of language safeguarding.

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v.l.n.r. Andreas Simons, Gabriel Harmsen en Valentine Goossens

Artisan pottery

Trudy Otterspeer explained the process of making the trophy to those present. She indicated that she always researches the subject and the person the pottery is intended for. This time she delved into information about Ethno Sweden and various instruments that are reflected in the design.


The assessment committee

  • Rose Mary Allen – University of Curaçao
  • Jorijn Neyrinck – Intangible Heritage Workshop (Belgium)
  • Renée Vulto - Utrecht University
  • Adrienne Zuiderweg - Indian Heritage Foundation
  • Mark Schep - KIEN and Reinwardt Academy

Dr. Albert van der Zeijden

The Dr. Albert van der Zeijden Thesis Prize has been awarded for the second time this year by Utrecht University and the Dutch Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage to stimulate research into intangible heritage. Albert van der Zeijden (1957-2021) worked as a historian for almost 35 years in the world of intangible heritage and popular culture and held numerous positions. In recent years, Albert van der Zeijden has worked as head of the Research & Development team at KIEN. As a Research Fellow in Heritage Studies, Van der Zeijden was affiliated with Utrecht University, where he supervised students with theses, among other things. He was also active internationally, for example within the ICH-NGO Forum where he was coordinator of the Working Group Research.

If you would like to know more about the thesis prize, please email .

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