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Personal profile

Personal information

Board memberships and management tasks 2016/2017

  • Programme Director of the Master Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Member Central Works Council (Ondernemingsraad) Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam




  • (Organization of) Bachelor course: Organization and Anthropology
  • Thesis supervision bachelor and master


PEOPLE - An EU-funded project to improve the relevance of social science teaching and research:

Our department is currently engaged in a three year EU-funded project (from November 2016 to October 2019) that focuses on the mismatch between qualifications gained by humanities and social science students and skills expected from graduates by employers in industry.


The PEOPLE project addresses the immediate needs of both graduates and companies. The former will apply the skills learned through their training in anthropology, sociology, and psychology to real-life and work situations, as well as gain a unique research experience and acquire new skills and competences.

At the core of the project is the idea that understanding people should become an indispensable part of industrial development processes, as a means to achieve practical-based education as well as new categories of products, services, or business strategies that truly address people’s needs and lead to sustainable innovation. The project will have long-lasting impact on higher education institutions and society at large by improving the relevance of social science teaching and research.




Download full publications here.


Regional and thematic specialisations:

  • Key themes: Identity, ethnicity, migration, transnationalism, Indigenous Peoples, Indian Diaspora, Youth and Human Security, sexuality and SRHR  
  • Regions: South Asia (Bangladesh and India), Netherlands, Surinam


Overview Research Activities

Ellen Bal has engaged in ethnographic and historical research on a variety of issues in Bangladesh, India, Surinam and the Netherlands. For a selection of projects see below:

Migration, livelihoods and SRHR: A triple case-study of young female migrants (YFMs) in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Her most recent research (2016-2018) is a (NWO-funded) collaborative project on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young rural-urban female migrants in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The project aims to give insight into their needs, desires and experiences regarding the sexual and reproductive health and rights of these, often highly vulnerable, young women. The project will look at how self-determination and sexual autonomy of young (unmarried) women living and working in the urban context are enhanced or obstructed through their migrant positions and income-generating activities. It will do so by doing research with three groups of young vulnerable migrant women (Garo beauticians, ready-made garment workers and sex workers) in the urban context. The project members will produce a documentary and short informative clips.



“Migration, development, and citizenship: Notions of belonging and civic engagement among Indian (knowledge-) Migrants in The Netherlands and Return Migrants in India” (2013-2015)

This NWO-funded research project started from the premise that the connection between migration and development is conditional and contingent on migrants’ notions of belonging and civic engagement in both the host and sending country. We tried to answer the following research questions: How do highly-skilled Indian migrants in the Netherlands and return-migrants in India define notions of belonging and civic engagement; how are these notions influenced by their personal (gendered) migration experiences (during and after migration), and how are they mediated by government policies and practices, and diaspora politics? 


See the project's website: Migration, Development and Citizenship

Two sub-projects:

1. Indian high skilled migrants in the Netherlands (main researcher Dr. Kate Kirk)

2. Return migrants in India (main research Dr. Ratnakar Tripathy) 

This research projects is part of the NWO-funded program entiteld “Migration, development and conflict
Also see: Indian migration to the Netherlands, Country Report: Indian migration to the Netherlands. 2012, European University Institute.


“'Back to the roots’: Indian diaspora and notions of belonging in Surinam and in the Netherlands” (2001-2005)

This (NWO/Wotro-funded) research project on the Indian diaspora in Surinam and the Netherlands, better known as the Hindustanis, and their relation with India. Central issues were migration, transnationalism, religion, and identity formation. In this project, she worked closely together with Dr. Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff, senior research fellow of the International Institute for Social History (IISG) in Amsterdam.


 "Identity, ethnicity and state in Bangladesh" (1993-2000)

Contrary to common ideas, Bangladesh is far from a homogenous nation-state. The country is inhabited by a large majority of Bengalis and over fifty cultural and religious minorities. In my study, “They ask if we eat frogs: Garo Ethnicitiy in Bangladesh, I analyze a number of key historical processes that have contributed to the articulation of the ethnic identities and boundaries. Find a copy of the book here:

They ask if we eat frogs: Garo ethnicity in Bangladesh (2007)

Book they ask if we eat frogs


Ancillary activities

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