‘Dutch students make me think about issues in a new way’

Kenneth Marcus from the Californian University of La Verne is Fulbright Visiting Professor in American Culture this Spring semester. He is enjoying spending time in the city where the Pilgrim Fathers lived. And he discovered something else. ‘Both the second and sixth presidents of the United States stayed here. You could promote their presence much more!’  

Why did you choose to teach at Leiden University?

'In 2008 I was invited to a conference on Migration Matters in Leiden which was organised by Johanna Kardux, a Leiden lecturer in American literature and culture. It was one of the best conferences I have ever participated in. There were scholars from all over the world and I really liked the vibe. When Johanna invited me to teach here on a Fulbright I was happy to accept.’

How do you like living here?

'Almost everyone is friendly, except for the bus drivers, and straightforward. My biggest surprise was how remarkably easy it was to organise my immigration papers. For an American it is extra special to live in Leiden where the Pilgrim Fathers lived. I made a video with my son for his school about the traces of the Pilgrim Fathers. Less known is the presence of the Adams family here in a residence  at the Langebrug 45. John Adams was an American ambassador to the Netherlands and later became the second president, and his son John Quincy Adams (who studied law in Leiden in 1781 and 1782, Ed.) lived for two years in Leiden and he became the sixth President of the United States. You would expect a big sign at the adress, but I could not find it. You could promote their presence much more!’  

What do you teach here?

'I am here for one term and I teach two courses: a BA course on the History of Los Angeles and an MA course on Exiles and Modernism in Southern California. Currently I am also working on a project about ethnicity and Dark Tourism in Europe and the US, together with Johanna Kardux. It is about tourism to places like internment camps and Indian burial grounds and how these places represent history.’

The residence at Langebrug 45 in Leiden where the Adams family stayed

The residence at Langebrug 45 in Leiden where the Adams family stayed

What are the most noticeable differences between your university La Verne and Leiden University?

‘My own university is much smaller and has about eight thousand students. Whereas we have one campus, all the university buildings in Leiden are spread throughout the town. It makes it more difficult to meet colleagues from other departments, but the Faculty Club is a good place to meet colleagues.’ 

Anything you have learned so far from your stay here that you will take back home?

‘My Leiden students are very curious and they ask me a lot of interesting questions, for example about the diversity of migration groups in the United States and how to deal with that. When you are used to a certain situation or history you sometimes take things for granted. Dutch students make me think about some issues in a new way. That is very valuable to me.’  

See also


American Studies



Last Modified: 13-03-2013