Tripti Joshi (Editor)

Mart Bax

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Mart Bax

Mart Bax wwwrtlnieuwsnlsitesdefaultfilesstyleslandsc

Medjugorje: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Rural Bosnia, Harpstrings and confessions

Marten Meile Gerrit "Mart" Bax (born 13 April 1937, Zutphen) is a Dutch emeritus (retired in 2002) endowed professor in political anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit (VU University), Amsterdam, the Netherlands. After his retirement he came into prominence to a wider public in the Netherlands in 2012 because of serious suspicions of scientific misconduct. In September 2013 these suspicions were confirmed in an official report.


Mart Bax English report on scientific misconduct anthropologist


He wrote his dissertation (cum laude) for the University of Amsterdam in 1973 about the anonymized Irish town "Patricksville".

He further wrote about an anonymized pilgrimage center, called "Neerdonk" in the Dutch province of North Brabant.

He also wrote extensively about the pilgrimage center Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia.

Scientific misconduct

The presentation by Bax of the town of "Patricksville" as having extensive corruption, bribery, and clientelism is considered controversial among experts.

He claimed in his scientific publications there had been an estimated 140 killings, 60 people missing and 600 refugees from the pilgrimage village Medjugorje, in Bosnia during the Bosnian War (1992–1995). Bax wrote that he had based his observations on extensive local field research. He called these killing the "small war". The reason for the killings in 1991/1992 were according to Bax not ethnic conflict but a vendetta between clans. Apart from very local writings near Medjugorje these claims were first criticized in journalistic writings in 2008. In April 2013 at latest both the existence of the mass killing, missing people, and refugees turned to out to be false beyond reasonable doubt.

In October 2012 the Dutch book Ontspoorde Wetenschap (Engl.: "Derailed science") by the science journalist Frank van Kolfschooten was published. In the book Van Kolfschooten pointed to the lack of confirmation for the vendetta. Bax had published anonymized results about field research that he stated to have done in a monastery in the province of North Brabant, the Netherlands. Van Kolfschooten had doubts about the existence of the monastery, because the existence of the monastery could not be confirmed by experts and because Bax refused to tell anyone in confidence the name and the location of the monastery.The writings by Van Kolfschooten were largely based on the unpublished work of Dr. Peter Jan Margry of the Meertens institute. The Free University, Amsterdam, reacted by announcing an investigation to Bax's works.

The Dutch Volkskrant newspaper wrote in April 2013 that Bax's scientific writings about Medjugorje contained many important incorrect citations to local writings or to non-existing local writings. Bax also incorrectly stated that the resident register was destroyed during the Bosnian war.

The Volkskrant also wrote in the same lengthy article that approximately one third of the scientific publications that Bax had submitted in the internal database, called Metis, of the university does not exist. The Volkskrant accuses him of fraud.

A commission to investigate this possible scientific misconduct was chaired by Michiel Baud and published its findings in a report dated September 9, 2013, and made public September 23, 2013. The commission confirmed serious misconduct:

  • Both in the Neerdonk case as well as in Medjugorje, Bax stated to have relied on one single local informant who told him improbable stories about public events that were not confirmed by anyone else. And Bax did not do any effort to check these stories. Bax wrote down the stories of these two alleged informants with certainty and in detail as if these they were historical facts. The commission considered this methodology scientifically irresponsible and a case of serious scientific misconduct. The commission considered these stories likely to be invented either by Bax or the informants. The commission was unable to interview these two informants, because one has died and the other one could not be found. So the most serious scientific misconduct accusation i.e. data fabrication by Bax could not be proved.
  • Of the 161 publications claimed by Bax, 64 are non-existent. He signed off his yearly publication list, so this makes it a crime of written misrepresentation. This is fraud against his employer.
  • The case on the pilgrimage site "Neerdonk", subject of his published inaugural speech, was considered to be invented.
  • The book Medjugorje: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Rural Bosnia (1995) mentions a blood feud for which there is no evidence at all. None of the inhabitants of the area are aware of anything like this happening.
  • Shortly after the publication of book mentioned above, Bax stated that he misinterpreted some information, but claimed he did not have the chance to make any rectifications.
  • The commission established he did have the opportunity to rectify these errors at various occasions, yet never did.
  • After the publication of Medjugorje: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Rural Bosnia, Bax referred to the blood feud in three other articles, after he already stated to be aware of the misinterpretation, which the commission labeled as "serious scientific misconduct".
  • The VU announced that it will warn academic publishers against Bax.The VU stated that it will not take legal steps against Bax because he is old and because the crime of written misrepresentation has passed the statute of limitations.

    Reactions by Bax

    According to his own words, starting in the mid 1990s Margry could not make sense of Bax's works regarding the Neerdonk case, in particular Bax's inaugural speech from 1989. Margry contacted Bax and received replies from Bax that did not remove his doubts.

    In 2008 the Frankfurter Rundschau did not receive a reply from Bax about the fact that he could not have observed in Medjugorje what he claimed to have observed.

    In 2012 Van Kolfschooten did not receive a reply to the letters that he sent to Bax.

    In April 2013 Bax wrote to the Volkskrant the following.

  • Regarding the vendetta between clans in Medjugorje that Bax called "little war". This was due to a mistake that close colleagues warned him about in 1995 in which he confused Yugoslavia during World War II (1941–1945) with the Bosnian war (1991–1995). He stated that he had tried in vain to correct his mistake with a rectification in a second edition. The second edition never came however. He did not explain why he kept publishing about the "little war" for years after the end of the Bosnian war in 1995.
  • Bax had written that the resident register had been destroyed during the Bosnian war. This is untrue. Bax explained this by stating that a key informant had told him that he did not need to do any effort to check the killings in the "little war". Bax admitted that in hindsight, he should have done more.
  • Bax referred in his writings to a newspaper Mostarski List which never existed. According to Bax, this was not a newspaper but a secret pamphlet.
  • Regarding the missing inhabitants due to the little war, Bax stated that he had seen vacated homes.
  • In 2013 the Baud committee spoke three times with Bax. In addition to the explanations to the Volkskrant, Bax said that he had written down improbable alleged historical events with certainty to make his articles accessible to readers. He stated that he had followed in this respect the example of Norbert Elias.

    In September 2013 Bax did not reply to the report of the Baud committee.

    Bax's selected scientific publications

  • Harpstrings and confessions : an anthropological study of politics in rural Ireland, 1973, dissertation
  • Figurational Analysis: A Better Perspective for Networkers. With an Illustration from Ireland. In: Anthropological Quarterly. Band 51, Nr. 4, 1978.
  • Religieuze regimes en staatsontwikkeling. Notities voor een figuratie-benadering. In: Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift. Band 12, Nr. 1, 1985, S. 22–48.
  • De vernedering van een heilige. Religieuze machtspolitiek in een zuidnederlandse dorpsgemeenschap, Hilversum, 1989, inaugural speech
  • Medjugorjes kleine oorlog. Barbarisering in een Bosnische bedevaartplaats. In: Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift. Band 20, Nr. 1, Amsterdam 1993, S. 3–25.
  • Medjugorje: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Rural Bosnia. Vrij Universiteit Uitgeverij, Amsterdam 1995. (Anthropological studies VU; v. 16) ISBN 978-90-5383-384-1.
  • Civilization and decivilization in Bosnia. In: Ethnologia Europaea. Band 27:2, 1997.
  • Holy Mary and Medjugorje's Rocketeers. In: Ethnologia Europaea. Band 30:1, 2000.
  • Warlords, Priests and the Politics of Ethnic Cleansing: a Case-Study from Rural Bosnia Hercegovina. In: Ethnic and Racial Studies. Band 23 No. 1, Januar 2000, S. 16–36. (PDF-Datei; 194 kB)
  • References

    Mart Bax Wikipedia

    Similar Topics