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Interview with Petra Broomans on being appointed as honorary doctor

07 February 2020

Last Friday (31 January), the Faculty of Arts at the Uppsala University appointed University of Groningen Associate Professor Petra Broomans as honorary doctor. Broomans was honoured during the winter conferment ceremony at Uppsala University, a world-class research university in Uppsala, Sweden. ‘I truly felt like a VIP’, says Broomans.

Text and photo: Nina Yakimova, Faculty of Arts, Communication Office 

Uppsala University and doctor honoris causa

Founded in 1477, Uppsala University is the oldest university in Scandinavia and is the European epicenter of development in structural equation modeling.

The title of honorary doctor, doctor honoris causa, is conferred by Uppsala upon academics, primarily from abroad, who have established ties with Swedish academic researchers and who have done outstanding academic work. The faculty themselves confer honorary doctorates, not the University administration and this distinction has national scope. The honorary doctorate originated at Uppsala in 1839. Previous honorary doctorates have been appointed to among others Prof. Umberto Eco (University of Bologna, Italy, 2008) and Ola Larsmo, (Author, 2018). Visit their website to see a full list of honorary doctors .

The appointment

‘I was very pleasantly surprised when I received the news about my appointment’, says Broomans. When she received the phone call, announcing her appointment, she felt extremely honoured, but also curious. ‘Of course you wonder - why me? I did not expect this at all, because you have to be nominated by your peers, you can’t lobby for it or ask for it’, adds Broomans. ‘When I got the call from the Dean of the Arts Faculty at Uppsala, she asked me: Are you willing to accept this? But I was speechless, I mean of course you can’t say no but what do you say, really?’, she laughs.

The citation, published on the Uppsala University’s website, noted that Prof. Broomans is a prominent scholar in the field of cultural transfer and ‘has been particularly active in highlighting female writers and has initiated several collaborative projects with literature and gender researchers, not least through the U4Society Network of universities. Petra Broomans has also been responsible for educational cooperation between departments in Groningen, Uppsala and Sichuan. Her many successful years at the University of Groningen have been crucial to the promotion of Swedish and Scandinavian literature in the Netherlands’.

‘As a young and uncertain student, I studied one year at Uppsala and I had never imagined that I would be among so many great scholars. But of course, I am very proud’, says Broomans.

Prof. Petra Broomans - the book lover, the Tango dancer, the academic

Broomans has always been fascinated by literature and books. ‘As a child I was always reading books, books, and more books’, says Broomans. But she was also interested in languages and during her teenage years she visited Sweden quite often. There she fell in love with ‘the sound of the silence’, as she puts it. ‘This is the time when I also fell in love with the musicality of the Swedish language’, says Broomans.

This helped her in choosing Scandinavian Languages and Cultures over History as her major at the University of Groningen. After she graduated with a Master’s degree in 1982, Broomans worked for an international bookshop for a year. She was also an assistant at a Scandinavian research institute, and later she was offered the job of a coordinator of the Language Science Shop at the UG. In 1992 Broomans was awarded a grant by NWO, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, for her PhD research, which she defended in 1999. ‘My research focuses on Scandinavian literary canon, history, and female writers. But also on Sami literature and culture, and cultural transfer by way of translations’.

From 2000 to 2003 she was a guest professor at the Department of Scandinavian and Northern European Studies, University of Ghent and in October 2011 Broomans was appointed visiting professor to Ghent University. Additionally, Broomans is a part of the international research network U4 (now called U4Society Network).

Currently, Broomans is working on a translation dictionary project - Dutch Translators' Dictionary , in collaboration with the University Library and the UG. ‘Translators' dictionaries with stories about the life and works of cultural transmitters are valuable sources for writing a transnational literary history’, says Broomans in her honorary doctorate acceptance speech.

Her advice to young researchers is simple: ‘Be determined and don't give up. Believe in yourself, especially young female researchers. And it is very important to choose a topic that can be a part of your life, because your research becomes a part of your life, and even a part of your identity. You have to be absolutely sure that this is the research you want to commit yourself to’. Having a supportive network is also very important, Broomans adds. ‘Try to expand your network and collaborate. Start international collaborations, because great ideas are born from collaborations’.

Outside academia, Broomans is a passionate Argentinian Tango dancer and teacher, and she loves to travel. In fact, she and her husband are teaching Argentinian Tango together. ‘When I am in South America, you can find me at the milongas dancing tango’, says Broomans. When she is not working on one of her various projects or dancing, she likes to read Scandinavian crime novels and sometimes writes poems of her own.

Prof. Petra Broomans
Prof. Petra Broomans
Last modified:21 February 2020 4.17 p.m.
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