Petra Tjitske Kalshoven

Petra Tjitske Kalshoven


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Personal profile


Drawing on a background that combines the Humanities and Social Sciences (M.A. Classical Languages and Cultures, Leiden University, the Netherlands; Ph.D. Cultural Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal, 2006), I spent a year teaching as Faculty Lecturer in McGill's interdisciplinary Arts Legacy Freshman Program (2006 - 2007) before taking up a two-year Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen, in September 2007. Following my postdoc, I moved to Manchester as a Lecturer in September 2009.

Research interests

 I am especially interested in the social and cognitive dynamics of knowledge production, and how these are mediated by, on the one hand, practical skills involving manipulation of things, and, on the other, rhetoric and other forms of 'play'. My doctoral research concerned the social and performative dynamics of a contemporary amateur practice called 'Indianism', which involves crafting replicas of clothing and artefacts as well as re-enactment of slices of Native American eighteenth- and nineteenth-century life by Europeans dressed in home-made Plains or Woodland Indian outfits. Drawing on fieldwork among Indianist groups in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Czech Republic (2003 - 2004), I argued that Indianist mimesis may be understood as a heuristic process in which Indianists employ imagination, creativity, and skill to reach out to an elusive past. In Aberdeen, I elaborated on my Ph.D. research by investigating how replicas used in historical re-enactment, as artefacts situated between 'real things' and forgeries, can become powerful tools in creating social landscapes that are both virtual and real, but always imagined.

My interest in imitative skill drives a new project that focuses on taxidermised animals as controversial, but increasingly fashionable, presences in contemporary European private and public contexts in a bid to shed new light on shifting human-animal relations and conceptions of nature versus culture. Drawing on material culture studies and new ethnographic approaches to ‘things’, I explore how mounted skins (both as material and as symbolic artefacts) enable hunters, taxidermists, and artists to represent and re-experience hunting lore, rituals, and skills, and serve to express landscape aesthetics and environmental concerns. This research was supported by a 2012 British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant, obtained for ‘Mastership in taxidermy: artistic interventions in human – animal ontologies’, an inquiry into the relations between taxidermy and contemporary art, which culminated in an exhibition and scholarly workshop at Kendal Museum in August 2013. In Spring 2015, I visited Kendal Museum again, this time with second-year students taking the Materiality and Representation module. An impression of our visit can be viewed here:
Building on my interest in ecological anthropology and the anthropology of moralities, and on contacts with taxidermists, I have embarked on an on-going ethnography of shooting and stalking, focusing on the Scottish Highlands and West Cumbria. I have become a member of the British Deer Society, and in 2016 I trained for a Deer Stalking Certificate in Scotland. From a comparative perspective, I have engaged with hunting contacts on the continent (the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany), where different historical, legal, and ritual frameworks apply. The emphasis in this project is on a political and ecological economy steeped in elite moralities. 
In September 2017, pursuing my interest in human expertise and more-than-human ecologies, I moved to Whitehaven to carry out a five-year long ethnography of Sellafield in its West Cumbrian context, as Dalton Research Fellow and member of The Beam on the project 'Holistic Decommissioning in the Nuclear Industry'. Please see and the UKERC-funded Sellafield Site Futures project, which culminates in 2020 in the exhibition x=2140 with commissioned sculptures by Cumbria-based artist Wallace Heim.

Other research


My monograph Crafting 'the Indian': Knowledge, Desire, and Play in Indianist Reenactment (Berghahn Books 2012) uses insights from museum studies, performance studies, art history, phenomenology, and from modern art practices to show how Indianism, as a hobby turned towards the past, constitutes a creative practice in the present. Grounded in fieldwork among networks of Indian hobbyists, the book offers both an ethnography and a theoretical analysis of this particular contemporary practice of serious leisure, in light of a more general human desire for play, metaphor, and allusion. More information on: 
For a review, see:

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Dalton Nuclear Institute


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