HomeSeminar Series13 July 2022

13 July 2022


Machteld Venken, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg


Talking borders, history and digital hermeneutics


On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an interdisciplinary citizen science experiment was hosted at the University of Vienna, during which Citizen Scientists, bachelor students in the humanities studying at different border regions’ universities throughout the ex-Habsburg area, talked to each other or to a Border Scholar participating in the Association for Borderlands Studies World Conference as equals about the meaning of borders. In this talk, I compare how participants recalled the past within the different genres of the monologue, dialogue and digital café. 

It is argued that the monologues generated through expert interviews among CSs offer us limited new knowledge about the way CSs used the past in order to give meaning to themselves in the world, compared to the monologues articulated by Border Scholars who sometimes possessed more scholarly expertise as well as storytelling skills. The dialogues, however, were a more suitable genre for CSs to express their past practices of growing up in borderlands in South Eastern Europe after the collapse of communism. Whereas participants also mentioned and commented on the past while chatting in the digital café, their contributions only offer us similar new knowledge about contemporary history than the CS dialogues. 

The paper uses digital hermeneutics in order to reflect upon the creation of new source materials with citizen scientists, evaluates the opportunities and hindrances of the newly created global digital café environment, and investigates new publishing possibilities for a sonoric analysis of the data.


Machteld Venken is a Professor of Contemporary Transnational History at the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH). She studied Slavic Languages and Cultures, European Studies and History in Belgium, Poland and Ukraine. Venken earned her PhD in 2008 at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) and her habilitation in 2018 at the University of Vienna (Austria). She has been a Principal Investigator of eight research projects funded in four European countries. Venken joined the University of Luxembourg in November 2019 after a Visiting Scholarship at the Imre Kertesz Kolleg / Institute of Advanced Studies at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (Germany) and an Attract Brains for Brussels Fellowship at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (Belgium). Her main research interests are transnational, transregional and comparative histories of Europe, migration, borderlands, oral history, the history of families and children, and citizen science.

Elspeth Brown, University of Toronto, Canada


Is there anybody out there? Multimodal research creation and queer oral history


"In the shift to on-line oral history archiving and access, researchers face new opportunities, and challenges, in creating wide-spread access to oral histories and their associated data, including video and sound files, ephemera, transcripts, metadata, and more. For community-engaged projects seeking to reach broader audiences, who exactly is our audience, and do they have the time and patience to view and listen to hours of un-edited oral history footage? Is getting oral histories on-line enough to ensure meaningful access?

My talk will focus on one strategy to increase community access to digital oral history projects: research creation. Research creation is an approach to research that combines creative and academic research, and which supports the development of knowledge through creative expression, scholarly investigation, and experimentation. In our current oral history project on the last major police raid of a queer bathhouse in Canada, we have turned to research creation to address three challenges: 1) how can we make our oral histories accessible in meaningful ways, beyond simply putting them on-line? 2) how can we queer oral history interviewing strategies to facilitate narrators’ sensory engagement with the past? and 3) how can we sidestep the colonial logics of research extraction through an ethical collaboration with narrators in the creation and circulation of research findings?"


Elspeth Brown is Professor of History at the University of Toronto, her research concerns modern queer and trans history; the history and theory of photography; the history of US capitalism; and queer archives. She is currently the Director for the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative and the Digital Humanities Network, U of T. She is the Director of the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory, a SSHRC-funded multi-year public humanities collaboration with community and university partners. From 2014-2021, she served on the Board of The ArQuives: Canada’s LGBQT2+ Archive, most recently as Co-President.

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