Jan De Deken (1985) earned a master's degree in International Relations at Ghent University and a bachelor's degree in Journalism at Artevelde University College. He learnt Spanish during an Erasmus exchange in Valencia, Portuguese during a second exchange program in Lisbon, and old-fashioned journalistic fieldwork during an internship at the Surinamese newspaper De Ware Tijd.
He worked as a freelance correspondent in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and wrote in-depth articles from more than thirty countries, including China, the Philippines, Japan, Rwanda, South Africa, Bulgaria, Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Haiti and the United States. He was among the first western journalists to report on the violence against the Rohingya minority in Burma, uncovered the commercial exploitation of rape victims in eastern Congo, and revealed Boko Haram violence in the Nigerian town of Chibok, concealed by the Nigerian army. His articles are published in the main quality newspapers and news magazines in Belgium and The Netherlands, such as Knack, De Groene Amsterdammer, Vrij Nederland, De Correspondent, Trouw, De Standaard and De Morgen. His investigations are broadcasted on Belgian public television and he reports live from around the world on Belgian public radio and the French news channel Radio France Internationale (RFI). His article on Cuban identity was published in English in the Daily Beast: https://www.thedailybeast.com/cubas-reforms-are-a-myth
In 2013 De Deken started a worldwide journey researching what makes people happy and unhappy in different cultures and life circumstances. His search kept expanding over the years and resulted in the narrative non-fiction book Melk, honing, kerosine (Milk, honey, kerosene – a journey to the world’s happiest and unhappiest places), published by the Dutch publisher Querido on April 17th, 2018. The author steps into the daily reality of people worldwide, ranging from the earth’s wealthiest corners to war-torn countries, to investigate their blisses, their struggles and what makes life worth living and fighting for. Along the road he deconstructs international happiness rankings and academic claims about the universality of happiness, and analyses the marketization of our wellbeing.
Mid 2019 De Deken will be launching The Polar Project, an investigative reporting platform focussing on the causes and the impact of climate change worldwide. More information coming soon!
NRC Handelsblad (Dutch newspaper): "A search for happiness easily ends up being a self-help book full of commonplaces that make no one any wiser. But in 'Milk, honey, kerosene' the quest feels sincere. The Flemish journalist has an eye for detail and a critical approach to both the science of happiness and himself. This, however, does not jeopardize the message of the book. The entrancing and profound stories of the people he meets along the way speak for themselves.'“
Jeroen Olyslaegers (prize-winning Belgian author): "'Milk, honey, kerosene' is a wild trip. The stories are strong, the insights rich. But what makes Jan De Deken's book so special, is how his own transformation becomes tangible. That's what makes this book so intense, so personal and so universal."