Conference “Reference Cultures and Imagined Empires from a Western Perspective, 1850-2000″

Westward snipConference ‘Reference Cultures and Imagined Empires’

On 11, 12 and 13 June 2014 the conference ‘Reference Cultures and Imagined Empires from a Western perspective, 1850-2000’ will be held in Utrecht. Since a broad range of topics will be discussed by many international speakers this conference may be interesting to many of you.

The conference is 100 euro including conference dinner. The day fee is 20 euro (without dinner). Student can attend the conference for free (excluding the conference dinner). Please register via

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Colloquium 26 June: Mark Thompson and Joanne van der Woude

At the next Translantis/AsymEnc colloquium, Mark Thompson and Joanne van der Woude (University of Groningen), will introduce, explain and demonstrate the application Amerigo, which allows users to explore connections through space and time between the Netherlands, the United States, and the Atlantic World at large.

Date: Thursday 26 June, 15.30-17.00
Place: Muntstraat 2a (room 1.11), Utrecht

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24 april 2014: Jaap Verheul, “Moving beyond Ctrl-F: Cultural Text Mining and other Digital Utopia’s,” KNAW, Amsterdam

Cultural mapMoving beyond Ctrl-F: Cultural Text Mining and other Digital Utopia’s

Jaap Verheul, Utrecht University

KNAW series “New Trends in e-Humanities”

Amsterdam, 24 April 2014, 3PM

This talk will explore the many possibilities – and some limitations — of digital humanities from the perspective of cultural history. It will explore how the different conceptual questions that cultural historians have tried to address each require and invite very distinctive computational approaches. Continue reading

Colloquium 1 May 2014: Pieter Francois on the Sample Generator

Pieter FrancoisHow to deal with a large collection of digitized texts? At the next Translantis/AsymEnc Colloquium, Thursday 1 May, Pieter Francois (University of Oxford) will talk about the Sample Generator for Digitized Texts, a tool he co-developed in the British Library Labs.

This presentation introduces the ‘Sample Generator’, a digital tool which allows users to generate structured unbiased samples of (digital) texts from the nineteenth century British Library holdings. Using the Sample Generator allows researchers to explore quickly a very large dataset (the British Library has approximately 1.8 million nineteenth century holdings) in a methodologically robust way. Furthermore the generated samples are easily citable and shareable. The overall intellectual background of the Sample Generator is that of the ‘generative humanities’ in which a creative process of going back and forth between data and the conceptual drawing board takes centre stage. In addition to saving valuable research time, the main contribution of the Sample Generator is that it is a hypothesis generating and testing tool. This presentation will address the ideas behind the Sample Generator and offer a hands on showcasing of its main functionalities.

Dr Pieter Francois is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University. His work focuses on explaining social complexity. He is especially interested in understanding how rituals, religion and warfare contribute to social cohesion. In 2011, together with Peter Turchin and Harvey Whitehouse, he co-founded ‘Seshat – Global History Databank’ ( He trained as a historian and published extensively on national identity and travel in nineteenth-century Europe. In 2013 he won the British Library Labs competition with the idea to create a digital tool, the Sample Generator, which allows users to create structured unbiased samples of texts from the British Library collections.

Date: 1 May 2014, 15.30-17.00
Place: Room 0.06, Janskerkhof 13, Utrecht

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Humor in cultural history research

Baas boven Baas

Who’s the boss?

by Jesper Verhoef

One of the nicer things about doing cultural history with newspapers as primary source are the strange particularities you sometimes encounter. Humor is a case in point. Nowadays, Dutch newspapers are not expected to come up with jokes. Of course, columnist are allowed to make them, but in news sections it is simply “not done” to tickle readers in this way. If you want to laugh, you will visit a comedian – right?

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12 December: Translantis Colloquium “Negotiating health and illness”

ObesityTranslantis Colloquium

Thursday 12 December 2013, 9-11am, Drift 21, Sweelinckzaal

dr. Hieke Huistra: Risking lives: Constructing risk group identities in Dutch public discourse, 1890–1990

In my research, I investigate the construction of (health) risk groups in Dutch society in the twentieth century (1890–1990), in order to improve our understanding of identity formation in public discourse, and in particular of the role of reference cultures in this process. My project analyzes the formation of ‘health identities’ by investigating a typical twentieth-century type of medical classification: risk factor classifications (e.g., the BMI scale, the blood pressure range that is seen as ‘too high’). Risk factor classifications create risk groups – and with that, as Ian Hacking puts it, a new ‘way to be a person’. What that new way of being a person exactly entails depends on the identity of the risk group. My project investigates (the construction of) the identities of three risk groups, related to the risk factors fatness, stress, and high blood pressure.

In this talk I will first discuss the theoretical and methodological approach of my research project; I will then present my first explorations on fatness as a risk factor in the twentieth century.