Asymmetrical Encounters: E-Humanity Approaches to Reference Cultures in Europe, 1815-1992 (ASYMENC)

Project Participants

This project will explore the cultural aspects of European identity by analysing the role of “reference cultures” in European public debates between the Treaty of Vienna (1815) and the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) – the period that witnessed the heyday of the na- tion state as well as its gradual substitution by European integration. ASYMENC investigates how these ref- erence cultures, defined as spatially and temporally identifiable cultures that offer a model to other cultures, have been established in public debates during this period.

The project uses a new digital humanities meth- odology to study long-term developments and transformations of cultural imaginaries in a systematic, longitudinal, and quantifiable way. Innovative text min- ing techniques enable researchers to mine and analyse large collections of digitised newspapers and magazines currently made available by national libraries. This al- lows the researchers to discover long-term developments and breakpoints in public debates, but also to map the vectors of cross-cultural influences. Text mining is now used on large multilingual text corpora which is unique for this HERA project.

This quantitative approach to the history of men- talities will be used to study the nature of cultural exchanges between major countries such as England, France and Germany and smaller countries, for exam- ple, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The project will explore case studies such as the public per- ception of the rapidly growing European metropolis, the spread of the commercial entertainment industry in the form of musicals, football and pop music, and the emer- gence of new consumer products such as prêt-à-porter, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and Pilsner beer. The aim of the interdisciplinary consortium of three European research centres at Utrecht University, Universität Trier and University College London is to push boundaries of multilingual text mining beyond their current state and illustrate how important questions about European cul- ture and identity can be asked and answered using the large corpora of digitised materials that are increasingly available in our libraries and archives.

Associated Partners: 

AP-1: Mr Ray Abruzzi, Cengage Learning-Gale, US,

AP-2: Mr Hans Jansen, Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands), NL,

AP-3: Dr Monique Kieffer, Bibliotheque Nationale de Luxembourg, LU,

AP-4: Dr Roger Muench, Deutsches Zeitungsmuseum, DE,

AP-5: Mr Johan Oomen, Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid (Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision), NL,

AP-6: Mr Niels Beugeling, Persmuseum Amsterdam, NL,