- Jens Pohlmann
- Marieke Oprel
- Kira Thurman
- Linda Braun
- Shelley Rose and Jared Donnelly
The project that I want to present at the GSA is part of my dissertation, which is titled “Capitalizing on the Avant-Garde? An Analysis of Adversarial Authors’ Marketing Strategies in the Second Half of the 20th Century”. My research examines the establishment of avant-garde authors’ and artists’ public personae in the context of changing structures of the public sphere. In particular, I focus on the self-presentation and promotion of adversarial authors who draw on the ideals of the avant-garde and the artistic critique of capitalism. Such authors are known for their critical stance towards the bourgeois lifestyle and materialist values, an opposition that they express in their works and at times also through their own bohemian identification. Yet these same anti-establishment authors and artists present themselves in the mainstream public sphere and the media, arenas that are highly influenced by the laws of the market. I therefore examine whether these authors’ use of marketing methods and media environments undermines their outsider credibility and the credibility of their work, or, alternatively, how they may have been able to develop strategies of engaging with the media and marketing principles that allow them to remain subversive nonetheless. In particular, I analyze how East German playwright Heiner Müller (1929-1995) presented himself in public and how he was marketed and strategically positioned by his publishing houses, especially by the Suhrkamp Verlag. I draw on his television interviews, public readings, and speeches, as well as on marketing materials such as book covers, blurbs, and press releases by his publishers.
The materials that I will present at the GSA draw on this doctoral work of mine and consist of different graphs and visualizations concerning Heiner Müller’s presence in the German public sphere. I have collected metadata on the publication of his writings (essays, articles, speeches, etc. collected in his Schriften volume) and on the broadcasting of his interviews from the respective volumes of his edited works. Based on this data, I can illustrate the importance of literary awards (Büchnerpreis in West Germany 1985, Nationalpreis 1. Klasse in East Germany 1986) for the expansion of Müller’s public presence, since the amount of interviews and writings he published per year increases significantly after he accepted these two awards (please see the respective PDF files for better perceptibility):
I therefore claim that publicly accepting the aforementioned literary awards and thereby implicitly honoring the cultural authority of the granting institutions was crucial for the establishment of his public persona and for gaining access to the mainstream media.
The data also documents specific changes in Müller’s choice of publication venues for his writings over time. The visualizations that I generated with RAW allow me to argue that Müller ceased from publishing his essays, articles, and interviews in theater programs – a publication type that he used in the 1960s and 1970s, but that usually only reaches small audiences of actual theatergoers – as soon as he got access to the mainstream media in the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s.
Furthermore, I can show the significance of Müller’s collaboration with Alexander Kluge and Frank M. Raddatz for his experimentation with the interview genre. These two interview partners of his stand out of the array of people Müller did interviews with, since he met them very often and over long periods of time (Graph 4). Kluge and his television production company, DCTP, are moreover absolutely essential for Müller’s presence on television, as Graph 5 highlights:
The process of collecting, refining, and visualizing this data was crucial for making the discoveries that I just mentioned. I had read and analyzed Müller’s interviews and writings before: I had taken notes on specific topics and I had interpreted certain pieces or passages, but only the data driven approach that I present here and the visualizations that I generated based on it allowed me to discover and document the broader patterns that are so critical for my thesis. I personally value this multifaceted research process as a very fruitful combination of traditional methods in the humanities (Hermeneutics, Critical Theory, Close Reading) and data driven DH approaches.
In a second step, I would like to apply some topic modeling and stylometric analysis to Müller’s interviews and writings in order to examine whether I can detect changes in Müller’s style and in the topics he addresses. My assumption is that Müller altered both his writing style and his topics when he began to reach out to more mainstream audiences in the late 1980s.
In May 2015, Afro-Italian activist Vittorio Longhi published a piece in the New York Times called “On Being African in Europe.” In the editorial, he argues that one of the greatest hurdles that Black European communities consistently confront is the problem of denial. For many white Europeans, the fact that Europeans of African descent exist at all is a contradiction, an ahistorical paradox that runs counter to their presumptions of the nation and who belongs to it. They dismiss, in other words, the presence of Afro-Germans in contemporary German spaces or the long history of Black French communities as outliers and outsiders to Europe. “In the United States,” Longhi writes, “there has been a comprehensive cultural construction of African-American identity, and a movement that responds when there is injustice or violence. We Euro-Africans still lack our own positive, inspiring symbols and leaders, our Martin Luther Kings, our Rosa Parkses, our Barack Obamas.”
Longhi’s references to pinnacle figures of African American history raise a simple but crucial question: Whither Black European history? Where are the iconic Black historical figures of Europe to challenge contemporary European myths of homogeneity, diaspora, and belonging? Although there are currently more than eight million people of African descent living in Europe (as far as scholars can surmise since most European states refuse to track their populations according to race), Black Europeans lack constructed narratives of their own pasts that are vital for community building. Their histories and their communities are rendered invisible. Moreover, there are few if any institutions, centers, or hubs dedicated to locating and discussing Black European history and studies. Black European histories, like the experiences of Black Europeans themselves, are stories of fragmentation, isolation, and marginalization.
My colleagues at the University of New Mexico, University College London, University of Missouri, Oberlin College, and I formed a collaborative in 2014 to advance the study and history of the Black diaspora to Central Europe. We sees to integrate Black history into Central European historiographies on nationalism, cultural formation, and race to illustrate that people of African descent have always been part of Central European history, and, thus, have always been European. In doing so, our program counters the popular notion that people of African descent are a new phenomenon in Europe – and thus are historical outsiders – and instead highlights the many different cultural forms of identity-making that were available to Germans and Austrians of all backgrounds in modern history.
Our dedication for educating the public about Central Europe’s own Black pasts has led to the creation of a website, Black Central Europe. Our website is a repository for primary sources in English and in German on the history of Black people in Central Europe. Modeled after other public history sites such as German History in Documents and Images and Interracial Intimacies our website offers links to other relevant digital humanities projects such as Swag Diplomacy or Mapping Ira Aldridge. We also share links to contemporary Afro-German social media sites and anti-racist organizations such as the Antonio Amadeu Stiftung, Initiativ Schwarze Deutsche (ISD), and Krause Locke. We also post Afro-German web series such as Schwarz Rot Gold or Polyglot on our website for the public to watch.
Being teachers ourselves, we offer pedagogical resources on our website as well so that teachers at the high school and college levels may better integrate Black German history into their course offerings. We post teaching modules on our site and share primary sources in English and in German for students to use.
Why I joined the GSA Seminar:
There are two reasons why I wanted to join the GSA’s seminar on digital humanities: one, to get feedback on our website and to discuss with people with more experience than I have how to organize and present large swaths of data – texts, images, videos, etc. Second, I have a project I undertook with my students in the spring of 2016 called “Mapping Black Germany” that I’d like to get feedback on as well.
Part I: Blackcentraleurope.com
Modeled in part on GHDI, we offer documents, images, and videos for teachers and students to use in their courses on European history. The project is not “live” quiet yet, but we hope to launch it by the end of August. My main questions are pretty simple and somewhat naive but nonetheless perplexing to us organizers of blackcentraleurope.com:
1. How does one organize a large body of primary sources from approximately 1000 AD to the present?
2. How does one present that material to the public in an accessible enough fashion?
Part II: Mapping Black Germany
Using CartoDB, my students in my “Germany and the Black Diaspora” class created a map to highlight where Black figures, communities, and organizations have resided in Germany since the medieval era.
The purpose of this project was for students to see how much Germany has participated in global developments concerning the Black Diaspora since the medieval era. They created pins pointing to St. Gereon Cathedral in Cologne, which currently houses the relics of Gregorius Maurus, a 14th century Black mystic who gained a following after the Archbishop of Cologne discovered that Maurus regularly had religious visions, for example, and dedicated pins to contemporary Afro-German writers as well.
It became apparent to my students really quickly that mapping makes the invisible visible. We had many conversations on the political and historical meaning of rendering minorities visible in spaces that have erased their history. Using the map that we created, we asked questions about what it means that our digital map of Blackness does not correspond to the mental maps of most people who study European history. In short, students will see more clearly that the politics of what gets on the map is contingent upon who is making it.
Future Directions and Questions:
1. What do I do with this map for the long term? How do I maintain it and grow it?
This map will be a permanent feature of Black Central Europe. I plan to teach my “Germany and the Black Diaspora” class every winter semester and involve students every time in building onto and shaping the map. Because this is a long-term project, I hope that each time I incorporate the map into my class, we will be able to ask different questions about map-making and Black identities in Central Europe. Over time, as more information appears on the map, I hope to be able to manipulate the data to look for patterns and flows of migration. Moreover, because this map is a permanent fixture on the Black Central Europe website, I wish to know how to use this map as a service to the public. I envision the map functioning as a public history project hosted by the University of Michigan.
2. What is the relationship between geo-spatial technologies and minority history?
Is this the right tool for me to use to display the diverse and rich history of Black lives in Central European spaces? Can geo-spatial technologies help historians iterate the complex phenomenon of historical identity construction – or do they flatten those identities? What do I stand to gain and what do I stand to lose by placing the fourteenth century religious figure Saint Maurice and twentieth century Afro-German poet May Ayim in the same geographical space?
In the years preceding, during and after the Second World War, the notion of citizenship with its links to nationality and legal protection by the state underwent radical change. Nazi policies had enforced a strict categorisation and isolation of citizens, with genocide as the ultimate consequence. German aggression and ideological constructions of Germanness and Brudervölkern had a major impact on the meaning of German nationality after the German capitulation as well. Occupied by Germany from 10 May 1940, the Dutch government in exile in 1944 declared all German nationals in the Kingdom of the Netherlands to be enemy citizens. Soon after the German capitulation in 1945, ten thousands of Germans were stripped of their assets, regardless of political allegiance or place of residence and without any Dutch compensation. Some were imprisoned or deported, others left at their own initiative. The project Germans as enemy citizens researches these Dutch policies, as a case in point to investigate how citizenship has been further put to the test after the Second World War.
Citizenship entitlements provide specific mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion in transitional times. In this research citizenship is approached as an essentially contested concept, related to changing sets of definitions in terms of legal status, privileges and rights, social and political engagement and identity.
Before 1940, thousands of German nationals held residence in the Netherlands and its overseas territories. Some had a residence permit, such as Grenzbauern, migrant labourers and housemates, or were German through marriage. Others lived and worked as missionaries, artists and entrepreneurs in Suriname or the Dutch East Indies, or were – now stateless – German Jewish refugees without a Dutch legal status. After 1944, all Germans in the Netherlands were politically categorised as enemy, a decision against which they could appeal. Who were these Germans and what did their German citizenship imply for them? How did international discourse on ‘collective guilt’ and human rights affect Dutch politics on Germans and citizenship in the aftermath of the Second World War? And, how can these Dutch post-war policies be understood in a more global framework? These are central questions in this PhD project (2015-2019).
Internationally, research on Heimatvertriebenen, or homeland expellees, and German refugees and emigrants who themselves or whose ancestors had involuntarily lost German citizenship in other European countries, has resulted in a vast amount of literature. However, regarding the Netherlands, the history of Germans post-1945, as part of the post-war legal redress in general, has received little attention from historians and has long been separated from the historiography about the Second World War. Little research has been done on the German minority in the Netherlands and its overseas territories after May 1945, and to this day it is unclear how many people were affected by the Dutch government’s judicial, economic and policy measures implemented. This can be explained by the trends and phases, the different approaches to the Second World War. For decades, the first post-war years in particular, debate was coloured by moralistic visions, based on the categorisation of ‘right-fully behaving Dutch’ and ‘guilty Germans’. It can also be explained by the fact that there are almost no diaries, memoirs or testimonies. The only source that can provide insight in the experiences of German enemy citizens is the extensive but little researched archive of the Dutch Property Administration Institute, an Institute that was authorized to detect, manage and liquidate confiscated German assets.
The archive of the Dutch Property Administration Institute, stored in the National Archives in The Hague (NL), provides a valuable source to investigate the moral, political and financial considerations at stake in Dutch policies of restorative justice. It is the primary source for answers to questions like “who were declared enemy?”, “how were people categorised?”, and, “who was in a position to appeal against the verdict?”. Jurisprudence, letters of request for de-enemisation and in particular the defences of enemy citizens shed light on the Dutch post-war policies. However, to this day this archive of this Dutch Property Administration Institute has not been completely disclosed. Direct access to the personal records of enemy citizens is due to the Personal Data Protection Act restricted, which makes both qualitative and quantitative research more than seventy years after WWII still almost impossible. The only entry into this complex archive are the original paper index-cards (circa 25000 in total), used by secretaries then to organise and categorise their archives.
These cards contain personal data such as names, nationality, place of birth and place of residence, but also the final court decision. With the information on these cards, I can submit a request to research the personal files. But, using digital tools, the data on these cards provide more interesting information. Therefore, to process and manage archival data, a database was designed. This database functions as an archive of an archive, which considering the fact that the archive of the Dutch Property Administration Institute has not yet been disclosed nor digitalised, and that there are limited options to search through the files, this is a major advantage. More importantly, the database enables me to count, filter and query my archival data (see http://mariekeoprel.nl/queries.html). A first sample test (824 cards) proved that it is possible to count how many enemy citizens had the German nationality, and to filter on for example gender or whether the no-enemy declaration was given or rejected. Furthermore, the test showed that it is possible to plot geographical data, such as place of birth and place of residence, and map the geographical patterns of Germans who left the Netherlands, be it on their own initiative or because of deportation (see http://mariekeoprel.nl/data.html. Finally, the sample test indicated that entering the data in a database can help disentangle the bureaucratic apparatus the Dutch Property Administration Institute was. The cards also include a variety of stamps, comments and notes. Digitalisation of the cards into a structured database enables to work along and against ‘the archival grain’. That way, large scale patterns in the archival form can be identified and analysed, as well as the semantic information and in particular the used classifications.
Jared R. Donnelly (Air Command and Staff College)
“Protest Spaces: Peace Movements in the United States and Germany, 1920-2000” (www.protestspaces.org) is a transnational collaboration of scholars from Cleveland State University in Ohio, Air Command and Staff College in Alabama, and Mannheim University in Germany. The research team combines historical data on protest and grassroots demonstrations gathered from American and German archives in a location-based multimedia database of protest events and archival materials in the United States and Germany, creating a geospatial research tool for humanities scholars worldwide.
Both the pilot and long-term project use Omeka and Neatline. The database will eventually include an archives section which maps the locations of archival materials gathered and deposited by activists in the United States and Germany. This central digital database will facilitate international cooperation and dissemination of humanities scholarship by providing scholars with a new analytical tool for studying protest and grassroots demonstrations.
“Protest Spaces” builds on Kathrin Fahlenbrach, Martin Klimke, and Joachim Scharloth’s premise that “current research on protest, dissent, and social movements is not confined to traditional boundaries anymore.” (Protest Cultures, 2) The project centers on three categories of protest events:
1.) location-specific events which occupy spaces symbolic to national or movement history like an Erinnerungsort, or memory sites such as the Frankfurt Paulskirche;
2.) issue-specific events which consolidate around a moment in history like the NATO Double Track Missile Decision (NATO Doppelbeschluss), US-Involvement in Latin America, the Vietnam War, and the First Gulf War; and
3.) transnational events which themselves crossed national borders and fostered connections between activists in different locations, such as Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) international summer schools in the 1920s and San Francisco to Moscow March for Peace from 1960 to 1961.
Each of the three categories includes the wide range of protest practices used by activists to appropriate public spaces, both in a literal and metaphorical sense, such as sit-ins, die-ins, military base blockades, nuclear free zones, and vigils. Through these lenses, scholars will be able to visualize patterns in the activists’ use of space which are otherwise obscured by the nature of archival research and the limits of studying protest events within individual archival collections. By curating information from diverse archives in the United States and Germany into the “Protest Spaces” platform, humanities scholars will have access to a unique set of geospatial visual data to enhance traditional academic protest research.
The project originally emerged from the dissertation research of Shelley Rose and Jared Donnelly. In 2014, we collaborated with Philipp Gassert and Philipp Baur of Mannheim University on a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) / Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Biliateral Digital Humanities Grant. We were not successful, but learned much from the external reviewer reports, including the challenges of applying to a program administered by two different national research agencies. One of the most important lessons was to have a small scale pilot project to showcase in the proposal to help reviewers understand what the digital humanities product will look like. This is why we are currently piloting case studies from each of the three categories above for our next cycle of grant applications in Fall 2016. This cycle will not include the NEH/DFG because the program has been discontinued.
Future Directions and Challenges
Protest Voices Project: This summer, two undergraduate student researchers at Cleveland State are collecting oral history interviews from local activists, focusing on anti-Vietnam protests and Cleveland’s active Catholic community which mobilized around four female mission workers who were murdered in El Salvador in December 1980. These interviews will provide material for the issue-specific category of the pilot project, and demonstrate the significance of including both American and German events in the Protest Spaces project.
Archival collaborations: In Germany, most protest movement collections are housed in a variety of movement archives rather than in the larger institutions. Protest Spaces will display information from these archives to make sources more discoverable and aid in planning archival research trips. In the future, we hope to conclude agreements with the major archival collections in the US and Germany in order to provide rich content for Protest Spaces and publicity for the collections.
Future contributor policies: We need to consider how we will generate content long term. Should this be through an open call, like a call for encyclopedia entries, or keep content creation in the hands of our research team.
Integrating historical map overlays: One of the critiques from our NEH/DFG reviewers was that we need to articulate a clear plan for including historical map overlays. We are currently exploring Geoserver and other options.
Bilingual Interface: should we consider a bilingual interface? What would this look like?
Each participant will use these guiding questions to provide feedback for each project in their category: Research, Teaching, or Methods.
- How does this project contribute to teaching, learning, research?
- Does it create or reframe knowledge and/or help develop skills?
- Does is provide new ways of viewing/studying sources?
- How can the project contribute to inclusivity in our classrooms? (in terms of document/source diversity and/or accessibility?)
- How might this model/method be transferred or applied in other disciplines?
- Does the project allow for interdisciplinary/inter-institutional work/collaboration?
- Is it sufficiently rigorous in respect to the intellectual aims of the project and in what ways might the project be improved?
Each seminar participant will give a short, 10-minute presentation on his or her project at the GSA (schedule TBA). The conveners have divided projects into three categories: Research, Teaching, and Methods. Each group will have a specific set of questions to address.
Questions for projects that focus primarily on research:
- What were your goals and how did the DH tools help you achieve them?
- Who is the primary audience?
- What are two challenges?
- What is the project’s future?
- One big question for the group that you want answered.
Project descriptions will be available through the “Projects” menus by June 30, 2016.