Three Dutch Caribbean PhD candidates in the NWO Island(er)s at the Helm project

Three Dutch Caribbean PhD candidates in the NWO Island(er)s at the Helm project

True to the name and their promise, the Island(er)s at the Helm project, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) programme Caribbean Research: A Multidisciplinary Approach, is employing CAS and BES islands researchers. Harold Kelly (Aruba), Lysanne Charles (Saba/St. Maarten), and Sharelly Emanuelson (Curaçao/Aruba) will be appointed from the 1st of September 2021 to work for four years on their PhD projects in relation to preparing the six Dutch Antillean islands for impending climate challenges.


Since the first occupation of the islands, hurricanes and the devastation of coastal areas have significant ecological and social implications for the (Dutch) Caribbean. These are deeply impacting the basic living conditions (water, food, shelter) and heritage of the island inhabitants. This requires immediate action! Island(er)s at the Helm brings together researchers and societal partners to combine technical, traditional, and contemporary knowledge practices to co-create sustainable and inclusive strategies for social adaptation to these climatic challenges. The NWO Island(er)s at the Helm project is chaired by Dr. Francio Guadeloupe (University of Amsterdam/KITLV), with co-applicants Prof. dr. Corinne L. Hofman (Leiden University/KITLV), and Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez (University of St. Martin).


Harold Kelly will be looking at long-term evidence for social adaptations to habitation and climatic challenges in Aruba, Bonaire, and Sint Maarten, from an archaeological perspective. In his PhD research the islands will serve as case studies to examine how islanders coped with challenges that negatively impacted their water and food resources and influenced their settlement location and house structures. Coping mechanisms identified within the archaeological record will contribute to the development of innovative sustainable solutions within the Islanders at the Helm project to mitigate climatic challenges faced today. Kelly studied archaeology at Leiden University, graduating in 2003. Since then, he has been working as an archaeologist at the National Archaeological Museum Aruba, serving as deputy director of the museum between 2007 and 2013.


Lysanne Charles is an educator, activist, and artist. Her work and interests have focused on the empowerment of marginalized groups. In the past she also worked for some time as a civil servant in the areas of policy development and implementation. Her interest in climate change and climate justice intensified after the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and during the Covid-19 lockdown on the SSS islands, when it became apparent that the development of sustainable food and shelter strategies were necessary in order to not make marginalized groups even more vulnerable. Charles’s PhD research will employ a transdisciplinary approach to analyze and bring together stakeholders from government and the community in order to create a dynamic, viable policy and strategy roadmap for the SSS islands. She is eager to begin with the research of this project and looks forward to working with a broad network of stakeholders across the SSS islands.


Sharelly Emanuelson will conduct ethnographic research from a visual-anthropological perspective, focused on leisure. This research departs from the fact that in the Dutch Caribbean there is a longer trajectory where people are not only faced with natural disasters, but also economic and social repression (the coloniality of disaster) and those circumstances have led to an importance of leisure time as moments of freedom. Emanuelson will conduct multi-sited fieldwork in spaces and places of leisure on four the six Dutch Caribbean islands. Sharelly Emanuelson is a filmmaker, visual artist, and researcher that lives and works in the Dutch Caribbean. She founded Uniarte, a contemporary art platform in the Dutch Caribbean. She has been widely recognized with prizes and grants in local, regional and international festivals and institutes.

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