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Fryske Akademy Research Agenda 2023-2027

• Area of expertise: The people and their environment


Research theme: The dynamic relationship with the land and the water through the ages
Research theme: Culture and identity

People cannot be seen separately from their environment - instead, people and their envi­ronment relate to and influence each other. This area of expertise focuses on that interaction. Research is conducted into the spatial aspect of the Frisian language, culture, history, and society. In addition, this area explores how human efforts over the centuries transformed the Frisian landscape and how the landscape’s character has influenced history, culture, language, and identity. In other words, how is the ever-changing relationship with the land and the water reflected in the language, culture, and history? And how do the Frisian people relate to their society, and how has this relationship changed through the ages?


Research theme: The dynamic relationship with the land and the water through the ages

Since classical authors first set eyes on the Frisian landscape, the Frisian region has been viewed as an area where a constant struggle for space is played out between the water, the land, and animals. People have been forced to adapt to living in the patchwork of clay soil, peat pastures, lakes, islands, and cliffs created by natural forces acting upon the water and land over centuries. And to live as agreeably as possible in this environment, people have constantly changed the landscape itself. How has living with the dynamics of land and water, and fighting for a place in the landscape shaped the Frisian cultural and linguistic identity?

Because the Frisians have always been skilled navigators, there was plenty of contact with other coastal areas, sometimes more than with the hinterland. The entire southern North Sea region, known as Frisia, was connected with the coasts of the British Isles and western Scandinavia. In the early Middle Ages - the period of Radbod and the Vikings - migration, exchange, and contact developed to such a degree that a shared North Sea culture is some­times referred to. Over time, the Frisians were always connected with international maritime networks. For example, they played an impor­tant part in the networks of the Hanseatic cities and in merchant shipping, through which the Frisian lands were connected with large parts of northwestern and eastern Europe. These dynamics are explored from various perspec­tives and using various sources.

Today, the Frisian land and water landscape is mainly the scene of conflicting interests and future concerns, such as how to deal with climate change, limited space, or subsidence in peatland areas. Using our knowledge from this research theme, the Fryske Akademy helps to deepen these debates and contributes to choices for the future.



Research theme: Culture and identity

Under this research theme, we examine how the Frisian identity has been variously interpreted over the centuries. At first sight, identity would appear to be something abstract and elusive, but by researching historical and contemporary expressions of Frisian identity, we can neverthe­less learn a lot about the self-image that Frisians have formed of themselves over time. What makes a Frisian a true Frisian? And were the things considered ‘typically Frisian’ today seen in the same way in the past? To what extent can we speak of a ‘collective identity’ of ‘Frisians’? Is ‘the’ Frisian identity a modern invention, or has there been continuity between then and now? Using the insights from a comparative perspective, a contribution is made to larger debates and inter­national projects about national and regional identity development.

Under this research theme, particular attention is devoted to the relationship between language and identity, the perception of one’s past, the Frisian movement’s origins and historical devel­opment, and the role of identity claims in the public debate. In this context, culture refers to the full range of traditions, customs, intellectual movements, and artistic expressions contrib­uting to identity development. The study of Frisian literature will also have a place under this research theme, providing us with a perspective on culture, identity, and society. An important angle is the way Frisian literature responds to the ever-changing, modern society.