PhD theses

6 PhD(s) launched in 2019

Altered Images: A Comparative Study of Medical Portraits

Juliet Mary Roberts  

The medical portrait came to prominence during the First World War as a means to document facial trauma suffered by soldiers on the battlefield. The main purpose of this art was as a pedagogical aid to the treating clinicians who were overwhelmed with unexpected numbers of cases needing surgical intervention to reconstruct their shattered faces. Henry Tonks, an artist and anatomist in England provided a series of pastel portraits for the surgeon Harold Gillies at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup. This has been reasonably well documented in in the general historiography of the Great War. However, a similar collaboration occurred in France, between the illustrator Raphaël Freida and Albéric Pont, an orthodontic surgeon in Lyon but this has had little historiographical attention. It is therefore the aim of this project to broaden the existing literature on facial injury and medical portraiture in the Great War through comparison of practices in England and France. The origins of the medical portrait will also be explored, particularly those produced in pen, ink, pencil and pastels where the sitter is identified. As primary sources, Tonks’ and Freida’s portraits will inform at length on the place of the medical portrait in relation to the visual culture of the early twentieth-century Western Europe, along with the impact of these devastating injuries on victims and clinicians where there was little previous experience of large-scale disfigurement. Instructive art has always played an important part in the history of medicine, and the clinical gaze for whom these portraits were intended now constitutes just part of an analytical basis which includes themes such as disability and the ‘damaged’ body, as well as cultural attitudes to disfigurement.

keywords : Medical Art History, disfigurement, visual culture

Communication infrastructures in the context of maintenance and repair practices: the Luxembourg telephone system

In the context of the project Repairing Technology - Fixing Society: History of Maintenance and Repair in Luxembourg, 1918-1990, financed by the Luxembourg Research Fund (FNR), my dissertation will deal with the hidden, fragile and dysfunctional parts of (modern) communication infrastructures. A historical contextualization will locate the terms in the short 20th century. A Broken Word Thinking -approach as described by Steven Jackson for example, opens up a completely new way of thinking, also in the discipline of the history of science and technology, where we can develop new narratives through this approach. The point here is to set not the functioning but the failure of technical systems as the starting point for historical research. Technological perfection is thus exposed as an economic and linguistic construct that basically has more to do with the marketing aura of the object than with the object itself and its use, maintenance and repair.
The historical starting point for this project is geographically Luxembourg and, in terms of sources, the archive of the PTT Luxembourg and the Siemens archive in Berlin. On that basis I will explore how technological infrastructures in particular are able to promote and form collective identities and how repair and maintenance practices create new institutional realities in recourse to the technological object itself.

keywords : telephone, repair andmaintenance, Luxembourg, networks

Laying the foundations of a modern city. Immigrant entrepeneurship and bourgeoisie in Esch-sur-Alzette. 1900-1940.

The development of modern Luxembourg owes much to the growth of a vast industrial urban complex in its southern region. By the beginning of the 20th century, the success of the mining and steel industries in Esch-sur-Alzette was accompanied by an explosion in its population, namely through the arrival of foreigner workforce. Conditions were set for a modern urban planning as well as private property development of the city to take place. The transition of a traditional village setting to that of an industrial city merits therefore attention. In the context of the urbanisation process, the role forged by migration is implicit. Working class, civil servants and private sector employees together, played a prominent role in the migration dynamics in Esch-sur-Alzette. Whether it is cross-border or long-distance, migration overarches multiple aspects of Esch-sur-Alzette’s history and urban development. The same can be said of the role played by Esch-sur-Alzette’s bourgeoisie.
What influences did urban development exert on processes of social mobility? Which mutations affecting socio-professional and family categories, demographic trends and mentalities can be traced back to the period between 1900- 1939?
Although prolific, the historiography of Esch-sur-Alzette has often overlooked aspects concerning its middle and upper classes, legitimately having privileged a narrative starring its working class. Also less charted for, is how the social fabric of the city was affected by the co-habitation of different cultural, religious and economic backgrounds and in which ways the professional expertise of some migrants determined the dynamics of their integration in Luxembourgish society.
This research will thus be looking at the Esch-sur-Alzette’s urban development dimension arising from the intersection of migratory and class creation processes by way of the contribution they may have had in the embellishment and modernization of the city.

On the mediation of human rights: Promoting the right to education through images – Following UNESCO’s travel album and the implementation of ‘the right to education’: a counter-narrative.

The end of the Second World War was the start of a new era, with worldwide support for a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In signing the Universal Declaration, the Member States of the United Nations pledged to promote a series of universal values codified in the document.
As a UN organisation, the UNESCO Department of Mass Communication made a major effort to present the declaration and its history through images. In 1949, the department created three tools to promote human rights: a large-scale exhibition at the Musée Galliera in Paris, a travel album, and teaching handbooks. These tools were designed to guide people to peace.
The travel album is a small exhibition in itself, extracted from the larger Paris exhibition. The album consists of a number of images, all related to the history of human rights and the articles of the Universal Declaration. I will focus, in particular, on article 26: “The Right to Education”. This right has been depicted in five different panels, containing 21 images in total and covering several themes.
The images exhibited, the corresponding texts and the reactions of the audience are all intertwined. The panels offer a representation of UNESCO’s perspective on education, and show its vision to the spectators, as a top-down perspective. Hence, it is hard to find any research that explores the reaction of the audience.
UNESCO aimed at educating people, spreading the ‘right to education’, which was mostly translated as ‘a fight against illiteracy’. Through archival research, interviews and the use of images as triggers for memories, I will reconstruct the spread and implementation of this ‘right to education’ through the eyes of the participants. The Paris exhibition is said to have reflected a specific Western perspective on human rights. One may therefore ask if the right to education can also be seen, and has also been spread, as a Western value. In my dissertation I will argue that, while education may be a universal right, its promotion, mediation, and implementation by UNESCO were based on Western standards.

keywords : contemporary history, visual studies, photography, oral history, history of education, mediation, human rights

Reconstructing Streets of Esch: Micro-History of a Living and Lived Space

The emergence of the iron and steel industry shaped the face of the then small rural town by adding new neighborhoods as well as changing the size and composition and of its population. Far from being a homogenous mass, the social, economic and cultural lives of the men, woman and children of Esch-sur-Alzette shaped — and were shaped by — their urban environment. Using a micro-historical approach, sociohistorical research, analyzation of existing and in cooperation with the inhabitants of Esch-sur-Alzette through oral history interviews and their private collections as well as exploiting the obvious and the hidden information and clues from partly digitized documents like population censuses, professional and industrial censuses, archives of the bureau de la population from Esch-sur-Alzette, archives of the Biens communaux office and local associations, alien policy files, photos, maps and historical newspapers, this study aims at reconstructing the evolution of six streets of Esch-sur-Alzette which are assumed to be representative of different social groups of an industrialized town in Europe from the 19th to the 21th century.
The research on some of the buildings and the past and current inhabitants of the rue Jean- Pierre Bausch and the rue des Mines as well as the rue Brill will shed light on the demographical changes as well as the informal rules, values and social networks, formed identities, ways of life, leisure time and crisis management of the steel workers and their families underlying the major social and political changes over the course of the century. How did they view themselves; how did they imagine life in other parts of the town and how were contacts between them established?
The research on the rue Emile Mayrisch will offer a similar glance into the world of the industrial bourgeoisie and their successors. The rue de Luxembourg will be representative of a more socially mixed society. Finally, the evolution of the rue de l’Alzette from a riverbed into the main commercial street with some of the most prestigious buildings of Esch-sur- Alzette will showcase the transformation of the town center in accordance with the growth and decline of an industrial town. The findings will be compared to other European regions of industrialization like Ruhr, Lorraine, Nord Pas de Calais, Borinage and Liverpool.
The study is inspired by the pioneering studies of John Foot on a micro-history of one apartment block in the inner-suburb of Bovisa, Milan, over a period of 100 years by trying to reconstruct a detailed history of at least two houses per street. Moreover, the study continues previous research work done by Denis Scuto on the history of the “Casa dei Romagnoli” in immigrant workers district Hoehl in Esch-sur-Alzette. The project will also represent the first step to a web-accessible interactive historical map of Esch-sur-Alzette.

keywords : Esch-sur-Alzette, Microhistory, Social History, Deep Mapping

The Development of Urban Repair Networks: the City of Luxembourg and Esch-sur-Alzette

Within the CORE project “Repairing technology – fixing society? History of maintenance and repair in Luxembourg (1918 – 1990)” this study aims to uncover the diachronic, non-linear changes of repair opportunities in Luxembourg in the short 20th century. Aside from drawing inspiration from interdisciplinary research on repair practices to further challenge some standard narratives in the history of technology (like the fetishism of innovation) this study will collect a wide range of historical data through archival research, statistics and oral history to portray a holistic account of the repair of everyday objects. While there has been some research done that focused on repair practices within larger companies and factories, this study is a first in systematically uncovering these from a bottom-up and hands-on thinkering perspective.
At its heart the study thus aims to go beyond simplistic arguments for the decline of repair opportunities of everyday objects like stating that we are now living in a society of mass production and consumption and are therefore doomed to follow the eternal cycle of buy – use – throw away – buy anew. I will therefore show how repair practices and opportunities have not vanished per se, but how they shifted – in form, scope and appreciation.

keywords : Repair, Everyday Life, Public History, Oral History

23 on going PhD(s)

A history of cultural policy in Luxembourg and the case of the Musée national d’histoire et d’art, from the 1920s to the 1970s (provisional title).

Cultural policy has never been disconnected from the political, economic and social contexts. When shaping cultural policy and taking related decisions, governments have been pursuing specific aims. In Luxembourg, the implementation of national cultural policy, even at a time when it was not officially labelled as such, has been closely linked to the idea of the nation. At the same time, it has been at least partly informed by foreign or international models, ideas, and trends. My thesis aims at developing a historiographical approach to analysing cultural policy, at examining how national cultural policy in Luxembourg evolved from the 1920s to the 1970s, and at taking a closer look at a specific case of a cultural institution, the Musée national d’histoire et d’art in Luxembourg City.

keywords : cultural policy, cultural history, cultural institutions, museums, nation-building, contemporary history, heritage

Anti-Heroes of Desamericanization? - The bandes dessinées of the Franco-Belgian School as actors in the popular cultural Europeanization of comic culture in the long 1960s

The project asks about the cultural-historical relevance of forming an independent school, called the école franco-belge, how it was defined as “European” and how its products transferred across countries and mediums. The main focuses will be:
a. European comic heroes
There is a very specific interest in the translation strategies that have been applied to central works of the Franco-Belgian school. Comics circulate across language barriers, their translation allows insights into different phenomena. The Franco-Belgian band dessinée was an export hit in the late 1960s and has been translated into numerous other languages - the most well-known example being “Asterix”. But these comic book transfers did not form a single-track route from France and Belgium to other European countries. The French publisher Elvifrance, for example, became a very successful importer of Italian comics, while another publisher, Impéria, brought Spanish-language comics to France.
b. Americanization in Response to a Conservative Comic Field?
The research that has been done has mostly portrayed the Franco-Belgian school as a symbol of successful stubbornness towards Americanization. For several reasons, it is important to question the premise critically. On the one hand, America remained as a projection space for the quite classic West European comics, be it “Lucky Luke” or “Blueberry” in the French-speaking world, “Bessy” in the Federal Republic or “Capitan Miki” in Italy the Western stories in the East Berlin “mosaic” (Beaujean et al., 2016). On the other hand, the market upheaval in the 1960s was also due to American influences. Increasing market concentration, production stabilization and the stripping out of real brands in the United States provoked a wave of protests in the mid-1960s (Schikowski / Dirks 2009), in which underground comics played an important role and contributed to the heterogeneity of a previously conservative field.

They also had an inspirational effect in Europe. In France, for example, with the founding of “Pilote”, “Fluide Glacial” and numerous other comic magazines, new forms of edition, narration and consumption have emerged. Americanization in this sense does not describe a post-war phenomenon that brought with it a victory march of the American way of life and homogenized social forms and norms: rather a dynamic from the 1960s that tried to break up deadlocked structures. While common (west) European bandes dessinées are more and more dedicated to a conservative and euphemistic image of society, at the same time interesting forms of hybridization were created in which Western European comic culture mingled with American underground. The tension between the initially contradictory hypotheses - successful Europeanization and hybridization - is regarded as driving the sub-project of “popular culture transnational”.

keywords : Comics, Popular Culture, History, Publishing, International Agreements, Europe

Approaches to Luxembourgish place names (provisional title)

I am looking at minor place names within the modern Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, as those names (i.e. names of fields and forests) represent the oldest stratum of the Luxembourgish language. I use the data made public through the open data portal of the Luxembourgish state (namely the toponomastic data of the administration du cadastre and the data on bus stops by the ministère du transport) as well as archival material to assess the historic and linguistic situation. From this data will resualt a typological analysis as well as an analysis on language change within western Germanic.

keywords : micro-toponomastics, small place names, lieux-dits, Flurnamen, historical phonology, morphology

Argumentation Mining in political debates

Arguments may occur in various contexts from debate forums on the Web to discussions among the jury members in the Court. The automatic process of extracting arguments from natural language text is known as Argumentation Mining.
Political debates are one of the application scenarios of major interest for this research area. In these debates, arguments are constructed to justify the plans the candidates’ parties advocate or the stance they take towards certain topics such as abortion, tax cuts, immigration.
In the election debates, the candidates attempt to make their claims appealing, while discrediting the opponent by attacking the strength of his/her claims. Thus, the increasingly available data of online political forums, transcripts of televised discussions or parliamentary debates provide researchers with a huge amount of textual data, from which fallacies, persuasive arguments, incoherence among the arguments proposed by a candidate, can be automatically identified.
This study focuses on extracting arguments from transcripts of presidential debates organized by the Commission on presidential debates in the United States from 1960 to 2016.
An annotated dataset is going to be used as an input to the AM pipeline to automatically extract the claims made in the arguments and the premises on which the claims are reasoned upon. We also plan to address the further AM task of predicting the attack or support relations between different arguments.
The aim of this study is to help researches in the field of social sciences, public address, rhetoric and history to analyze the large amount of discussions that is now available mostly by means of digitization of textual resources. Applications ranges from studying the impact of persuasive arguments, tracking the coherency of candidates’ claims in debates, detecting fallacies in arguments, exploiting the audience’s sentiments to construct the arguments, and altering the reasoning methods through time.

keywords : Argumentation Mining, Computational Argumentation, Natural language processing pipeline, Political debates

Commercial radio stations and their transnational radio culture in Europe in the 1960s. Transnational and transmedial approaches to the history of the commercial radio stations Radio Luxembourg/RTL and Europe n°1 and their ‘imagined communities’ of listeners in the larger 1960s

Richard Legay’s PhD research focuses on the transnational history of commercial radio stations and popular culture in Western Europe in the ‘longer Sixties’ (c.1958 - c.1974). More precisely, he is investigating the impact of Radio Luxembourg (its French service, known as RT after 1966 ,and its English service, also known as Radio 208) and the French-speaking radio station Europe n°1 on the shaping of a transnational imagined community of listeners. His research is built on the analysis of institutional archives and on a trans-medial approach. He is working on the stations’ soundscape through recordings of their programmes, and on the publication of magazines, as well as on the entanglements between these two elements.

keywords : Radio, Europe, Transnational, Soundscape, Popular culture, history

Cultural and Educational Activities of the Jewish Population in Czechoslovakia and Luxembourg in (1945 -1990): Comparative study

When traumatic historical events and transformations coincide, the personal and historical significance of life-course transitions is intensified. Regardless of their assimilation, Jews are affected by continuous pressure, and their experience depends on whether they agree to accept a new order imposed on them by a state system.
This paper addresses a broad series of questions about the formation of Jewish identity during political upheavals, assimilation, secularisation and modernity.
My research attempts to find answers: Who are Jews? Is it possible to define a modern Jewish identity? How are Jewish identity and education transmitted through generations? How does Jewish cultural heritage change based on different historical contexts? All these questions have emerged in recent years, and only extensive research drawing on both statistical and archival data will provide us with answers.
The project also explores the official and unofficial transmission of Holocaust memories and the role of Jewish youth groups in selected areas. Historical sources reveal attitudes toward a new Jewish state and the impact of the collapse of democracy in the eastern part of Europe.
My research looks at individual examples of Jewish society using different methods of quantitative and qualitative analysis together with oral history methodologies. I have adopted an interdisciplinary approach, combining historical research with a variety of social factors based on individual biographies and the formation of ethnic identity.
Investigations of archival sources and focus group discussions aim to create a coherent picture of the life stories of people widely known as the “second generation” and their attitude to the current perception of the Jewish identity. Based on Alena Heitlinger’s analysis, the research will examine whether new forms of Jewish identity can secure the long-term survival of Jewish communities in the areas under study.

keywords : Jewish history, Oral history, Contemporary history of Europe, Cultural studies

Emotional Design for Digital Cultural Heritage

The modern experience of visiting museums extends beyond the institutions themselves into digital spaces, where online galleries, exhibitions, and virtual tours provide unprecedented access to arts and culture from visitors’ personal devices. However, generating public interest around these platforms remains a challenge, and the digital experience rarely compares to an in-person visit. Building on research demonstrating the effectiveness of emotional design to enhance public engagement with museum exhibitions, this project investigates how emotions can be integrated into digital museum systems.

keywords : human-computer interaction, user experience, cultural heritage, museums, user interfaces

Flows, mobility and networks of the foreign workforce in the cross-border steel basin of the Minette during the inter- war period

The study of migration is a relative newcomer on the academic scene. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the first serious academic studies were published, prompted by the growing importance of migration as a social issue. Humanities research on migrations has moved from an approach that emphasized the spatial and demographical dimensions of migrations towards issues that include more and more dimensions. It still suffers from significant historiographical gaps, notably in the border area of the steel basin, even though this is, historically, one of the focal points of foreign migration.
Taking this as a starting point, this study focuses on the flows, mobility and networks of foreign workforce in the Luxembourg-Lorraine cross-border basin of the Minette during the inter-war period. We decided to focus on this period because the era that followed the Treaty of Versailles re-established the borders in Europe. This was indeed a particularly fluctuating phase, which led to unprecedented migration flows.
By combining socio-history and border-studies approaches, it will seek to further our understanding of the contingencies that affected these migrants’ lives and caused their mobility, as well as the strategies they developed to circumvent them. This study will focus, on the one hand, on micro-mobility within the basin and its adjacent areas and, on the other, on macro-mobility showing more distant movements of migrants between countries of origin, places of transit and locations of more permanent settlement.
The project will study individual routes and mobility, which are hidden by the statistical records. It will be made possible by the computational processing of diverse data held on nominative records from heterogeneous and scattered sources. Mindful of the need to exploit the data involving large number of individuals, we shall deploy a methodology based on computational data processing and data mining to analyze the migratory phenomena.

keywords : Digital Humanities, Frontier, Nationality, Mobility, Immigration, Migration

From Analogue Past to Digital Future

For my project, I will work in the intersection between architectural history, heritage conservation, museum education and digital design. I will explore how digital technologies can be used to create or enhance visitor experiences to heritage sites and promote understanding of their history. My particular focus will be on developing reconstructions that show degrees of certainty in their accuracy, and integrating data sources and metadata to demonstrate the thought process that went into their creation. I will use Vianden and Larochette castles as case studies, contrasting an existing commercial reconstruction with a new one developed along these principles.

keywords : Architecture, Built Heritage, Digital Cultural Heritage, Virtual Reality, Medieval History, Architectural History, Museum Studies

Handel und Transport in Gallien, Germanien und Rätien

Jan Lotz  

I work on trade and transport networks in the provinces of Gaul and Germania during the Roman Empire (27 BC – AD 301). My sources are mainly inscriptions and images (esp. reliefs). The information given by the sources are for example findspot of the source, name of the merchant/his family/friends/freedmen/colleagues and their origins, the professional and political career of the merchant, trade route and places or type and origin of the trader/goods.
I add all the information to a database, and try to reconstruct trade/transport networks between different cities or regions and to discover previously unknown roman roads.
The networks can exist between two cities/regions that are close to each other (for example between the tribe of the Parisii, Lutetia (today Paris) and the Seine), but also between cities that are far apart from each other, like Mainz and Tios in northern Turkey (see Fig. 1). After their reconstruction, I use GIS software to further analyse the networks and visualise them on a map.
Most of the sources were found in the east of the research area, alongside or near Rhône, Saône, Moselle and Rhine. In the west, the only city that stands out is Bordeaux. Important cities were Lyon, which was the economic centre, the cities Narbonne, Arles and Nimes (especially for the sea trade), Trier (and the Treveri, who were quite active as merchants), Mainz, Cologne and Colijnsplaat as an important place for the cross-channel trade with Britannia.
Some of the problems of network analysis in ancient history are the lack of critical approach/use and the strong focus on its mathematical aspects. That’s why it is very important for me to include this critical self-reflection on network analysis, its benefits and limitations as well as to keep network analysis easy understandable.

keywords : Handel, Transport, Wirtschaft, Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Römisches Reich, Gallien, Germanien, Rätien, Antike

Historical Network Analysis

Included as an interdisciplinary role in the Doctoral Training Unit (DTU) on “Digital History and Hermeneutics”, the main objective of the research project is to provide a wide range of tools to generate and analyze graphs from the work of the other PhD students.
Data modeling is a mandatory step because it has to fulfill both constraints of the users from humanities (History, Philosophy, Linguistics, Archeology, Geography) and the computer science capabilities (modeling, software and hardware).
Graph exploration will be used to propose an accurate description of the information contained in these graphs by analyzing their specificities (sparse, small-world properties, size etc.). Two different algorithmic approaches will be used: the classical and state-of-the-art ones (k-means, Louvain etc) and some new decentralized versions (ant colonies, cellular automata etc). Complexity analysis and heuristics will play a crucial role since most of these problems are NP-Hard and the amount of data available nowadays increase in an exponential manner. These solutions will be validated through simulations and statistical analysis on large datasets built in the context of the DTU using the UL HPC.

keywords : Network Analysis, Machine Learning, Hermeneutics, Digital History, Computational Social Science

Intertwined destinies, strengthened ties: Migration paths from Luxembourg to Brazil (1920-1965)

Luxembourgish historiography of migration has primarily focused on foreigners immigrating to Luxembourg. By contrast, this research inverts roles and puts the Luxembourgers as migrants, studying their paths to Brazil between 1920 and 1965. Luxembourgish emigration to Brazil was deeply intertwined with the establishment and development of Companhia Siderúrgica Belgo Mineira (CSBM), a subsidiary of the Luxembourgish steelmaker Aciéries Réunies de Burbach-Eich-Dudelange (ARBED). Hundreds of Luxembourgers settled mainly in the state of Minas Gerais to expand the pioneering Luxembourgish steel production whilst changing the Brazilian industrial landscape. These circumstances created the need to strengthen political and diplomatic ties between both countries, a role eventually taken over by CSBM via honorary consuls. The current project aims to advance the Luxembourgish historiography by analysing three important, yet relatively unexplored aspects: (1) Luxembourgish migration paths to Brazil; (2) the community of Luxembourgish migrants and their descendants in Brazil; (3) the political and diplomatic role of ARBED’s subsidiary. The reasons and conditions that promoted Luxembourgers to migrate combined with their subsequent acceptance or rejection in the host country will be studied using a transnational and interdisciplinary approach. Particular emphasis will be placed on interactions within the Luxembourgish community. Further, the research will elaborate on the decisive factors for the eventual remigration of various Luxembourgers in the 1960s. To what extent were these migration flows controlled by CSBM, including those individuals who did not migrate to work at the steel company, such as the Jewish refugees during WWII? What were the connections between CSBM’s directors and the networks of political and economic power? By delving into unexploited archives, interviewing contemporary witnesses and exploring their private documents, this project attempts to unveil the remarkable history of Luxembourg-Brazil relations. Besides the PhD thesis itself, two main outcomes will be a database of the Luxembourgish immigrants in Brazil (1920-1965) and a documentary film to be released in 2021, 100 years after CSBM’s inauguration.

keywords : Migration Policies, Luxembourgish Emigrants to Brazil, Luxembourg-Brazil Relations, Steel Industry, Companhia Siderúrgica Belgo Mineira, ARBED

Les experts de l’Administration grand-ducale des Postes et des Télécommunications. Entre responsabilité internationale et enjeux nationaux.

Le but de la thèse en voie d’élaboration est d’étudier l’Administration grand-ducale des Postes et Télécommunications dans sa dimension internationale. La question de recherche comporte ainsi deux volets. Tout d’abord, il s’agit d’étudier le rôle et la stratégie du Grand-Duché et des experts de l’Administration des Postes et Télécommunications au sein de deux organismes multilatéraux des (télé)communications, à savoir l’Union télégraphique internationale (et ses successeurs, UIT) et l’Union postale générale (et ses successeurs, UPU). La deuxième partie de la question de recherche met le focus sur le niveau grand-ducal national en étudiant la coopération et les tensions entre les trois institutions grand-ducales impliquées dans la représentation du pays, à savoir l’Administration des Postes et Télécommunications, le Ministère des Finances et le Ministère des Affaires étrangères. En ce qui concerne le cadre chronologique, nous envisageons une perspective de longue durée, avec une période d’analyse comprise entre 1865 et les années 1950, synonyme de bouleversements profonds au sein de l’UIT et de l’UPU.

La thèse entend s’inscrire dans une tendance historiographique récente qui met le focus sur deux concepts, celui de l’expert et celui de la techno-diplomatie. Citons à titre d’exemple pour cette tendance la thèse de Léonard Laborie , la série Making Europe , ainsi qu’un article de Johan Schot et de Vincent Langendijk sur l’internationalisme technocratique dans l’entre-deux-guerres . A ces bases dans la littérature, nous souhaitons fournir un cadre théorique complémentaire basé sur des concepts de la théorie des petites puissances, afin de tenir compte des spécificités des relations internationales des petits États. Le fondateur de cette théorie, Edward Hallet Carr introduit notamment deux variables explicatrices pour étudier l’attitude internationale d’une petite puissance, à savoir la configuration du Système International (pour Carr il s’agit du degré d’évolution de l’armement, pour notre étude l’on pourrait envisager la configuration des réseaux de télécommunication tout comme le contrôle des matières premières nécessaires à leur mise en place), ainsi que les limites de l’État national, notamment en termes démographiques et géographiques.
Dans les années 1960 et 1970, Vital, Rothstein, Keohane et Katzenstein modifient et développent la pensée de Carr en introduisant notamment l’idée que les petites puissances ne recherchent pas nécessairement une alliance bilatérale avec une grande puissance pour assurer leur sécurité militaire et économique, mais adhèrent également à des organismes multilatéraux et recherchent une influence sur le Système International. Keohane en particulier ajoute une dimension psychologique à la définition des petites puissances. Est une petite puissance une puissance qui ne peut assurer seule sa défense militaire et dont les dirigeants politiques la considèrent comme telle. Deux éléments peuvent donc être ajoutés au cadre théorique, à savoir l’idée qu’une petite puissance veille aux alternatives que le SI offre, afin de jouer sur différents organes pour, dans une deuxième étape influencer ce Système International en sa faveur.
Depuis les années 1970, les historiens Sasha Baillie, Mario Hirsch et Jeanne Hey ajoutent à leur tour trois variables explicatrices dont il faut tenir compte dans l’élaboration de notre cadre théorique. Premièrement, le contexte historique et géographique d’un pays a un impact sur son attitude sur la scène internationale. Deuxièmement, les petites puissances disposent d’une stratégie de négociation pratiquement constante et qui consiste en des interventions minimes, mais cruciales. Enfin, le régime institutionnel d’un pays est à son tour un facteur explicateur de son rôle international.
Or, la théorie des petites puissances ne tient pratiquement pas compte des caractéristiques individuelles des acteurs clé. Un représentant politique agirait donc exclusivement en fonction de son rôle politique et ferait abstraction de ses convictions personnelles. Pour combler cette lacune dans l’étude des experts des Postes et Télécommunications, nous proposons de faire appel à la pensée de Schmidt et Werle . Appliquant des concepts de sociologie à l’histoire des technologies, les deux auteurs considèrent que trois facteurs déterminent la formulation de standards internationaux de télécommunications. Premièrement, les spécificités techniques des technologies à encadrer. Deuxièmement, il faut citer les principes de fonctionnement de l’organe en charge de la formulation des standards, dits « méso-perspective ». Enfin, les caractéristiques individuelles des acteurs siégeant dans ces organes, ainsi que leur dynamique de groupe doivent être considérées. Werle et Schmidt, parlent de la « macro-perspective ».
Nous proposons de ce fait une analyse en trois niveaux, le Système International, l’UPU et l’UIT représentant la « macro-perspective », les institutions luxembourgeoises formant la « méso-perspective » et les représentants luxembourgeois correspondant à la micro-perspective.

keywords : technodiplomacy, expert, telecommunication, postal service

Modelling approaches to long term changes in human mobility. Case study of the Stone Age of European Forest Zone.

The topic of project is the long-term change of human mobility based on methodology of spatial agent based modelling (ABM).

For the research a specific case study area is selected - it involves the hunter-gatherer activities during the Stone Age in the Northern European forest zone (ca 9000-4000 BC). Agent based modeling is used for building the theory of hunter-gatherer residential mobility in general and to research methods how to use information from domain of archaeology for geographical model building.

Current knowledge from material culture defines tempo-spatial boundaries of the phenomenon, we also have a good idea of settlement pattern which potentially has most information about communication and movement.

Purely archaeological data would not suffice to create models incorporating mobility and related social patterns. Luckily ethnologists have collected a lot of data about hunter-gatherers including their social patterns, kinship, economy, mobility etc. The largest - Binfords database has data about 339 hunter-gatherer groups. There has been a lot of discussion on the possibility of creating projections to the past from recent ethnological data. Binford has compiled the database of more than 200 quantifiable characteristics from the research and has shown on basis of the data that several aspects of hunter-gatherers activities are significantly dependant on their environment.

Project also explores the use of vast account of qualitative information from ethnography and it’s incorporation into the modelling process.

keywords : Agent-based modelling, residential mobility, archaeology, ethnography, geography, mesolithic, stone age, hunter-gatherers

Shaping a digital memory platform on migration: a public history project on Italian and Portuguese migration memories

This research aims at studying migration narratives in Luxembourg combining a plural cultural history framework with a systematical historical comparison of the mediated memories of two specific groups of immigrants in the Grand Duchy – the Italian and the Portuguese – and their different generations’ narratives. Approaching the subject from the perspective of “History from Below” and using an innovative methodological apparatus built on oral history and digital and public history methods this research expect to encounter an alternative storytelling for these immigrants with acknowledgment to their own agency as historical actors. To access and interpret the migration narratives of diverse generations of Italian and Portuguese in Luxembourg, the project will employ a digital toolkit which will be tested in the examination of different bodies of sources (ego-documents, oral history, published material), enabling a “scalable reading” text analysis of the whole corpora. One of the main outcomes of this project, besides the PhD thesis itself, is the shaping, together with the community, of a platform for digital storytelling on migration in Luxembourg, aiming at sharing memories of different generations and communities online. The process of building and running this “platform” as an example of doing public history with the means of digital tools and technologies is the central empirical challenge of this project. The platform will allow to test tools for doing digital history online (text mining and visualization software) and to actively engage with the “object of study” itself that is the different generations of Italian and Portuguese migrants in Luxembourg. Doing so, the projects aims at contributing to the Luxembourgish historiography on migration, as well as to reflect on the methodological and epistemological debates in the field of digital humanities / history, by evaluating the effect historical crowdsourcing and digital source criticism to the historiographical operation.

keywords : Migration, Digital History, Public History, Oral History, Comparative History, Source Criticism

Text mining a corpus of Australian Aboriginal autobiographies (working title)

As Natural Language Processing, Data Science and Machine Learning are rapidly developing, humanities scholars turn to computational methods to make sense of the increasing amounts of born-digital or digitised textual data available to them. Topic modelling is a machine learning technology based on the assumption that texts are mixtures of topics recurring throughout a corpus (collection of written texts), where topics (patterns of co-occurring words) are defined as probabilities over words. In digital humanities, topic modelling is often viewed as an implementation of distant reading, macroanalysis and algorithmic criticism approaches.

There is a discussion on whether autobiographies should be considered a historical source. While some scholars criticise such an interpretation of autobiographies, many view works belonging to this genre as important in historical research in general, and that related to minority groups, which include Indigenous peoples and micro-histories and cultural history, in particular. Despite their potential historical value, autobiographies seem to remain a resource that has not been used to its full potential.

This interdisciplinary project will aim to investigate the opportunities and challenges of applying text mining methods to explore latent semantic structures and language use trends and patterns in a corpus of Indigenous Australian autobiographies published between 1950-2018. From the perspective of Digital Humanities, the project aims to provide new insights into the nature, history, thematic structure and style and language peculiarities of Australian Indigenous autobiographies as a genre. From the perspective of computer and data science, we will explore application of machine learning algorithms to digital literary studies.

keywords : Natural language processing, text mining, digital humanities, topic modelling, word embeddings, vector space model

The epistemology of historical representations in digital environments

This PhD project investigates the philosophical challenges created by the use of digital technologies to acquire historical knowledge. The introduction of technologies as instruments for research in the natural sciences in the 17th century was accompanied by intensive discussions about the status, the reliability and the possibilities of technology as a means to justify knowledge. The digital revolution of the last decades and its influences in the field of history raises similar questions. Digital technologies influence the way historians do historical research and argue for their descriptions and explanations of the past.
Central questions:

  • What is the role of traditional theoretical virtues in historical Big-Data research? Historian using a wide array of theoretical virtues, explicit and implicit in their research practices. An assessment of those virtues can give valuable insights for accessing the epistemic demands of digital history.
  • How is the digitization of the entire historical research process affecting our concepts of explanation and understanding?
  • New possibilities to present historical knowledge in a non-linear and interactive form raise questions concerning the status of those virtual presentations. Are experiences created with digital devices illusions?
  • How are visualizations in the humanities different from already established traditions of visualizations in the sciences?

The main methods used in this project are twofold. On the one side stands the critical evaluation of different significant epistemic concepts connected to historical research, which runs parallel with a more practical approach, which looks closely at the research practices in the field of digital history. This approach should assure the close connection between the theoretical analysis and the digital practices of historians.

keywords : digital history, philosophy of the social sciences, epistemology, philosophy of mind, big data, visualizations

The history of free radio in the Meuse-Rhine Region (1975-1990)

The PhD thesis “Free radio in the Meuse-Rhine region (1975-1990)” deals with the emergence of the free radio movement in a border region between the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. At the end of the 1970s, under the influence of the Italian and Dutch radio movements, a completely new radiophonic landscape emerged in the region in focus and in Western Europe. Hundreds of radio stations were suddenly in the ether and broadcast programs. The new independent radio stations gave numerous social movements and population groups the opportunity to make radio programs with a content they wanted to listen to. Under the impression of these new competitors, the public broadcasters and the press landscape evolved. The border situation in the region resulted in the members of the radio movement exchanging views on numerous issues and influencing each other. Accordingly, the project is oriented towards both media and social history and at the same time focuses on mutual relations between European countries and regions.

keywords : Popculture, history, media history, regional history, cultural history, transnational history, border history, popcultural exchange

The history of the computerization and digitalization of banking activities and services from a European perspective

This research project focuses on the history of the computerization and digitalization of banking activities and services (with a cross examination of banks and customers, of bank services and their uses and reception), from European perspective. The reception of banking innovations (ATM, credit card, online databases, etc.) will be at the heart of his research. Florian Vetter holds a Bachelor’s degree in Cultures Européennes – Histoire from the University of Luxembourg and a Master’s degree in History and Science of History from the Free University of Berlin. His master thesis analysed the rise of National Socialism in Germany (1920-1933) based on a press analysis of the Luxemburger Wort.

keywords : Digital History, Financial History, Economic History

The History of the Design and Use of Computing Devices. Studying its effects on occupational segregation, working conditions and gender stereotypes in advertising from the 1940s until the 1980s.

This research will focus on the evolution of the design and use of computer devices from the 1940s to the 1980s and its relation to occupational segregation based on gender and other social categories. Furthermore, the research studies the influence of these designs on working conditions based on five case studies of different computer designs. In a final stage the influence of the media representation of the technology and its users on gender stereotypes takes centre stage.

In order to recreate the design and use of computer devices, the PhD project will use objects and their representation in pictures, audio-visual material, texts and others such as drawings. The source material will centre around five designs ranging from punch card machines to mainframes, minicomputers, microcomputers, and the personal computer. Furthermore, several user studies will reenact how some of the surviving machines can be used to expose differences in the design of these computing devices compared to modern technology.

This project therefore consists of two distinct, but complementary parts, namely public history in the form of blogposts and video material published online, and a traditional historical thesis. In general, the public outreach aims at reaching both amateur and professional historians and computer enthusiasts, allowing people to participate in user studies and comment on ongoing research. The thesis will contain a detailed literature study of gender in computing and of the relation between the design and use of computers on occupational segregation. Furthermore, the thesis also analyses the working conditions for each design, and the media representation thereof.

keywords : Experimental Media Archaeology, User Studies, Museum Studies, Material History, Oral History, Computer Devices, Labor History, Gender Stereotypes

The history of the épuration in Luxembourg. Strategies of purge and denazification through the example of justice and police

The overall goal of the dissertation project is to offer a systematic, ostensive and transnational view on postwar purge and denazification in Luxembourg. In this context, “purge” is to be understood as a synonym for the practice of épuration, a form of political and social cleansing following the demise of Nazi occupation regimes in Europe. This practice of retribution against real or alleged collaborators has taken on particular forms in different contexts and ranged from complex administrative “self-cleansing” procedures to street violence and vigilante justice.
The dissertation will focus on the process of épuration within two related professional groups, namely juridical personnel and the police. Essentially, the study aims at exploring the functioning and scope of cleansings within the realm of justice and present some selected cases.
The Luxembourgish case study will then be contextualized on a European level in order to determine the Grand-Duchy’s role in the larger context of postwar retribution. This will allow to elaborate on the meaning of retribution practices as a legitimation strategy and a nation-building element in the Grand-Duchy.
The overall goal of the dissertation project is to offer a systematic, ostensive and transnational view on postwar purge and denazification in Luxembourg. In this context, “purge” is to be understood as a synonym for the practice of épuration, a form of political and social cleansing following the demise of Nazi occupation regimes in Europe. This practice of retribution against real or alleged collaborators has taken on particular forms in different contexts and ranged from complex administrative “self-cleansing” procedures to street violence and vigilante justice.
The dissertation will focus on the process of épuration within two related professional groups, namely juridical personnel and the police. Essentially, the study aims at exploring the functioning and scope of cleansings within the realm of justice and present some selected cases.
The Luxembourgish case study will then be contextualized on a European level in order to determine the Grand-Duchy’s role in the larger context of postwar retribution. This will allow to elaborate on the meaning of retribution practices as a legitimation strategy and a nation-building element in the Grand-Duchy.

keywords : archives, collaboration, history of justice, nation-building, post-war era, social history, transnationalism, contemporary history of Luxembourg

The importance of transnational contacts for the dissemination of psychiatric knowledge in Europe (1841-1925)

In the nineteenth century psychiatrists from all over the world visited foreign universities and asylums, went to international conferences, were member of different psychiatric associations, exchanged literature and corresponded with each other. However up till now the importance and impact of international contacts have not been researched in depth. The project aim is to broaden our understanding of how psychiatric knowledge was distributed and acknowledged in mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth century Europe by looking into how (inter)national knowledge was acquired and evaluated; how transnational contacts transformed and shaped ideas and opinions that lived amongst psychiatrists; and how this changed their perception about the knowledge that circulated. This will be done by paying attention to some of the communication channels that were used to acquire information/knowledge. Conferences, asylum visits and association meetings/journals will play a leading role in this research. By focusing on a transnational framework and moving away from rigid territorial units, aided by digital tools such as social network analysis and text mining, we get a much more nuanced understanding of the dispersion of psychiatric knowledge throughout Europe.

keywords : Transnational history, History of psychiatry, History of medicine, Knowledge circulation, Digital history, Social Network Analysis, Visualisation, Text mining

Visualizing Visions: Re-viewing the genre of 17th century ‘constcamer’ paintings

In seventeenth-century Antwerp a new type of painting emerged: the constcamer genre, also known as ‘Pictures of Collections’. Such paintings depict interiors filled with objects of art and science, and were created almost exclusively in Antwerp and Brussels between 1600 and 1700. It has been suggested that about one hundred constcamer paintings survive, but a total of two hundred seems more likely after a first survey. All of them were painted by about sixty different artists who often collaborated. Building and analyzing a corpus of all surviving examples could provide insight into the meaning of these pictures. Because of the interdisciplinary character of constcamer paintings (to modern viewers at least), the genre is not easily accessible. In order to identify objects as well as the immaterial concepts of natural philosophy they subtly refer to, I am cataloguing the paintings digitally. Within my PhD project Visualizing Visions I use digital tools to annotate the images, and to draw connections between them. I explore the use of methods such as Linked Open Data and various database systems to find and link knowledge. The goal at a meta level is to study how artworks can be converted into data in a way that allows for in-depth art historical research.

keywords : Digital humanities, art history, datasets, museum collections, interactive visualizations

2 PhD(s) completed in 2019

Propaganda für Stahl und Nation. Bilder und Gegenbilder zum wirtschaftlichen und

Ira Plein  

The mining and steel industry not only brought wealth to Luxembourg in the 19th century, it also strongly contributed to the visual self-presentation of the Grand Duchy. Especially in the interwar period, when both, the industry and Luxembourg had to re-position themselves on the international stage, it was the steel company ARBED that established a corporate identity, which would subsequently merge with the self-image of the Luxembourg. In the contemporary conception of ›propaganda‹, which was informed by mass psychological findings of the late 19th century and the more recent practice of propaganda in World War I, visual media were considered key for the targeted management of public opinion. The changing appropriation of motifs (Luxembourg, industry, social welfare) can be traced in the Luxembourg visual media, such as film, photography, graphic arts and exhibitions of the interwar period – through the corporate communications of ARBED, the integration of industrial motifs into the national (self)representations, and the counter-images of the labor movement. These media and motifs are considered as part of a social and political discourse in the negotiation of the idea of a Luxembourg industrial society.

It was ARBED, who carefully linked (1) beautiful views of Luxembourg, (2) the steel industry, and (3) the industry’s social works, to establish the corporate identity as a Luxembourgian company that brings economic and social progress to Luxembourg in the corporate film Columeta (1921). As such, it provided the right motifs at the right time to anchor the industry, and ARBED in particular, firmly in the national context. ARBED’s corporate identity determined the industry’s self-presentation for decades and, at the same time, was a stepping-stone for the successful integration of industrial motifs into the national iconography. The labor movement countered those positive images of economic and social progress – introduced and communicated by the steel industry in Luxembourg. It was in particular the worker artist Albert Kaiser, who pointed to negative sides of industrialization and came up with a proletarian perspective on the situation of the working class in Luxembourg in his works of graphic art, and who designed and brought together the unions’ alternatives in social education in the media system of the exhibition.
As can be seen from the presented media, the appropriation of the motives of social welfare by the state only took place after years of preparatory work and in personal continuity from the labor movement. The cross-media examination of the motifs in the inter-war period enables a broader understanding of the contemporary discourse on industrial society, the actors involved, and the relevance of media competence and resources.

The fact that this was by no means common in 1921 is shown by the analysis of various visual media from the end of the 19th century to the First World War, where the views of the steelworks were only very hesitantly included in travel guides or in publications with a regional reference, and had only entered the popular canon of Luxembourg iconography through the mass medium of illustrated postcards. Only after the film Columeta did the steel industry find its way into book publications as well as into films that were intended to convey a representative image of the Grand Duchy.

keywords : steel industry, interwar period, media analysis, nation branding

Trading Zones of Digital History

As long as there have been computers, there have been scholars pulling at historians, challenging them to use these computers for historical research. Yet what role computers can have in historical research is a matter of continuous debate. Under the signifier of “digital history”, historians have experimented with tools, concepts, and methods from other disciplines, mostly computer science and computational linguistics, to benefit the historical discipline. The collaborations that emerge through these experiments can be characterised as a two-sided uncertainty: historians uncertain how they as historians should use digital methods, and computational experts uncertain how digital methods should work with historical data sets. The opportunity that arises from these uncertainties is that historians and computational experts need to negotiate the methods and concepts under development.

In this thesis, I investigate these negotiations as trading zones, as local spaces of negotiation. These negotiations are characterised as a duality of boundary practices. First, boundary crossing, the crossing of boundaries of disciplines, discourses, and institutions to collaborate. Second, boundary construction, the establishment of boundaries of groups and communities to preserve disciplinary values and remain recognisable as part of a community of practice. How boundary crossing and construction are balanced, whether disciplinary boundaries are shifted, and to what extent historians’ practices are transformed by continued interaction with computational experts, are open questions demanding closer scrutiny. These considerations lead to the research question underlying this thesis: how are historians affected by interactions with computational experts in the context of digital history collaborations?

I investigate this question through a mixed-methods, multi-sited ethnographic approach, consisting of an open online survey which received 173 responses, 4.5 years of observations at the University of Luxembourg, 37 interviews, and an LDA topic modelling analysis of 10,918 blog posts from 73 historians between 2008-2017. Through these approaches, I examine trading zones as configured by three different dimensions. First, connectedness, the extent to which collaborators connect with one another through physical proximity, communication, and the sharing of practices. Second, power asymmetry, the extent to which participants shape their own field of action as well as the fields of action of their collaborators. Third, cultural maintenance, the extent to which collaborators become more alike or stay apart by adopting new practices or displacing previous practices.

On a macro level, referring to the global historical discipline, I conclude that methodological approaches developed in local trading zones have hardly diffused to macro solutions. Insofar digital infrastructures were appropriated in the macro community, these were aligned with traditional practices. Rather than transforming historical scholarship, the challenge was to provide infrastructures congruent with existing values and practices.

On a meso level, referring to the historians engaged in digital history trading zones, I conclude that the effect of interactions was dependent on individual decisions and incentives. Some historians experimented with or adopted computational practices and concepts. Yet other historians detached their work from the shared objective of a collaboration in order to reduce risks, as well as to maintain disciplinary practices. The majority of participants in trading zones were scholars from the humanities, physically distant from collaborators, communicating more often with disciplinary peers than with cross-disciplinary collaborators. As such, even when participating in trading zones of digital history, a significant number of historians remained aligned with traditional practices. Changing practices were regularly not in the direction of computational practices, but to incentives of politics or funding. While historians that participated in digital history trading zones therefore did learn new practices, this did not entail a computational transformation of their scholarship.

Finally, on a micro level, some historians chose to engage intensively with computational experts. I call these individuals digital history brokers, who exemplified significant shifts in practices. Brokers conducted project management; coordinated practices from archival and library domains such as data collection, transformation, and description; learned about the potential and limitations of computational technologies and where to apply these; employed inter-languages to translate between the different collaborating domains; and finally transformed historical questions into infrastructural problems.

Digital history brokers thereby not only developed interactional expertise to collaborate with computational experts. They furthermore developed political proficiency to negotiate the socio- economic potential of digital history strategies with politics, university administrators, and funding agencies. I therefore describe the practices of brokers as infrastructuring, covering a duality of negotiations. First, cross-disciplinary socio-technical negotiations with computational experts how to support scholarly practices with digital technology. Second, intra-disciplinary socio-political negotiations how to diffuse those practices within the community of practice. Digital history brokers therefore transform their own practices, so that other historians do not have to on meso or macro levels, but can employ digitised sources and digital methodology through infrastructures in a fashion that naturally fits into their practices as historians.

I thereby provide a critical view on digital history grounded in how it is conducted and negotiated. This thesis is therefore aimed mainly at scholars interested in digital history and its relation to the historical discipline and to digital humanities, as well as scholars interested in studying digital history as a specific case of cross-disciplinarity.

keywords : digital history, collaboration, trading zones

see also