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DH Colloquium 25 June: Lisanne Walma (Utrecht University)

At the next Digital Humanities colloquium, Lisanne Walma will talk about using a collective memory studies approach to study reference cultures in digitized newspapers. Ann Rigney (Utrecht University) will respond to the talk.

Date: Thursday 25 June, 15.30-17.00
Place: Janskerkhof 13 (room 0.06), Utrecht

Looking for Reference Cultures Through Collective Memory Studies

Lisanne Walma (Utrecht University),
response by Ann Rigney (Utrecht University)

Within the Translantis project researchers study the emergence of America as a reference culture in Dutch public discourse in the twentieth century. At the project’s outset reference cultures were summarized as “mental constructs that do not necessarily represent a geopolitical reality with an internal hierarchy and recognizable borders. These culturally conditioned images of trans-national models are typically established and negotiated in public discourses over a long period of time.” To study the development of American references, researchers textmine the digitized newspaper collection of the National Library of the Netherlands on a particular subject. They are faced with questions of when to see America as a trans-national model for their particular subject, how to locate references to the country in digitized newspapers, and how to follow and explain their development overtime.
            In this presentation I argue that it is helpful to analyze reference cultures as part of collective memory. Concepts and research from collective memory studies can help to identify and follow reference cultures in digitized newspapers because of the field’s focus on publically shared images and symbols of the past, political interests in the public sphere in putting forth these symbols, and the transnational exchange of these ideas. For example, Wertsch’s distinction between schematic narrative templates and specific narratives can help evaluate the impact of America’s presence in different types of newspaper stories. Moreover, research into the transnational circulation of memory can help researchers to analyze how Dutch actors reframe and refer to stories about America to appeal to their own audiences. Throughout the presentation I will give examples from my own research on the role of American references in Dutch public discourse on narcotic problems and policies in the twentieth century.


Lisanne Walma studied Pharmacy and American Studies and is a PhD candidate at Utrecht University. She studies the role of American references in Dutch public debates on drug problems and policies in the twentieth century. The research is part of a larger project called Translantis: Digital Humanities Approaches to Reference Cultures. In this project researchers use semantic text mining to examine America’s role as a reference culture in Dutch public discourse from 1890 to 1990.

Ann Rigney will respond to this presentation. She is professor of Comparative Literature at Utrecht University. She has authored numerous publications in the field of cultural memory studies, historical fiction, and transnational reception, including most recently The Afterlives of Walter Scott (Oxford UP, 2012) and Transnational Memory: Circulation, Articulation, Scales (co-edited with C. De Cesari; de Gruyter, 2014).


Thursday 25 June, 15.30-17.00, Janskerkhof 13 (room 0.06), Utrecht

The Digital Humanities colloquia are organized by the digital humanities research projects Translantis – Digital Humanities Approaches to Reference Cultures: The Emergence of the United States in Public Discourse in the Netherlands, 1890-1990 (www.translantis.nl) and Asymmetrical Encounters: Digital Humanities Approaches to Reference Cultures in Europe, 1815–1992 (www.asymenc.eu).