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Showing posts from May, 2010

Pop ethnography of Dutch PhD "Promoties" 2

POSTSCRIPT to Pop Ethnography of Dutch PhD Promoties 1: According to one of my more knowledgeable and senior informants, in the past the paranimfs really did go to defenses armed, to protect the promovendus from attacks from outraged professors. This was way back in the 17th century, when "science was very important" and a defense could last for days. My over-active imagination went into overdrive: perhaps some of these 17th century defenses ended in duels! But that's pure speculation and not based on any anecdotal -- much less empirical, evidence. It was very possible for a defendant/promovendus to black out from exhaustion and the paranimf was then allowed to continue to defend the thesis on behalf of the out-cold promovendus. (As expected, the younger members of this society are no longer aware of the origins of certain elements of the ritual. For them, these elements have become, simply, "The way it has always been done.")

Pop ethnography of Dutch PhD "Promoties" 1

As an anthrogeek I've decided to approach next week's "promotie" (an esoteric dissertation defense ritual practiced in academic circles in the Netherlands) as participant-observation taken to the extreme and to do some research prior to the event. Apparently, a promovendus (one who would be promoted), is supposed to have two paranimfs. What are paranimfs? I googled paranimfs and found only Dutch information, the most accessible being Wikipedia of course. (Disclaimer: I know. Wikipedia is not the most reliable of sources of information.) I copy-pasted the whole text on paranimfs into babelfish and the translation that came up is priceless so here it is verbatim: (Disclaimer: I know. Yahoo Babelfish is not the best tool for language translation, but the babelfish on the other hand... Oh never mind.)   Image source: Leiden University The promovendus is generally accompanied by two paratrooper nymphs. The original meaning of paratrooper nymph is bride noblema