Welcome to the 3rd GRAINES Summer School: Interconnected – Actors, Objects, and Ideas on the Move. The summer school will be organised and hosted by the Institute for Transnational & Spatial History at the University of St Andrews June 7-10, 2015.

Presentation digitized/digital sources

I’d like to take this opportunity and thank everybody who attended my short unconference session on digitized and digital sources. In my point of view, we had a refreshing discussion with a lot of input!

For all who are interested in the presentation: I’ve uploaded it as pdf and it should be available for download here.

During the session, we discussed and reviewed quite a broad range of available portals of digitized sources. Unfortunately, the idea of collecting them came up only at the very end of the session. So I thought it might be a possibility to collect them here. So feel free to add them at the comments section!

Once again, many thanks to the organizers of the Summer School for offering the opportunity to lead this rather informal session!



Farewell – #Graines2015

#Graines2015 - THE GROUP

#Graines2015 – THE GROUP

General thoughts on GRAINES 2015

I found the discussion of the relationship between inter-imperial rivalry and cooperation in the workshop on “Actors and Ideas between European Empires” run by Ulrike Lindner very useful. We decided that in the late nineteenth century commercial cooperation and rivalry often were not considered to be antithetical. Advocates of international economic cooperation (i.e. standardization, collective infrastructural management, commercial regulation) were often trying to establish a framework that would facilitate more intensive competition. As Lindner put it, many internationalists essentially viewed rivalry, within certain bounds, as progress. However, the chapters by Lindner and MacKenzie from Imperial Cooperation and Transfer also persuasively demonstrated that a new sense of white, Euro-American solidarity did emerge in the late nineteenth century. During this period, imperial expansion and commercial integration, which entailed massive new programs of infrastructural development, resource extraction and administrative reform created many new opportunities for scientific and technical cooperation among Western “experts” and generated a new sense of Western cultural superiority. Moreover, new cooperative organizations, such as the Institut Colonial International, helped enhance the visibility and professional prestige of transnational networks of experts. I will need to think more about how national commercial institutions may have supported and/or regulated this type of cooperation as I develop my dissertation project.


Kapil Raj’s introduction to Relocating Modern Science, which we discussed in the workshop by Jakob Vogel and Alexander van Wickeren, provided an alternative perspective on European scientific networks. Raj argued that the history of modern science should include non-Western actors operating in imperial “contact zones” who participated in and shaped European research activities “outside the laboratory.” It is possible that this argument could be applied to the development of European theories of commercial practice. At the end of the nineteenth century there was a general movement to codify “commercial science” within an emergent network of European business schools (e.g. l’École des Hautes Études Commerciales). However, this body of knowledge generally was not based on methodical fieldwork but rather on an accumulation of anecdotal experience and customary practices drawn from a diverse array of private actors and associations (chambers of commerce, shipping companies, etc.). In its infancy “commercial science” seems to have involved less systematic consultation of local, non-Western experts than the disciplines discussed by Raj (cartography, botany, etc.). This does not mean that this kind of consultation did not occur but its influence on Western institutions may be quite hard to trace.

Role of Connectors in Knowledge Transfers: Center-Periphery

Summer school participants questioned the rigidity of networks. Many pointed especially to how the researcher can create networks in situation where, in practice, these didn’t exist. Instead, they argued for, on the one hand, the flexibility and feebleness of networks and, on the other hand, the network as a scholarly tool for visualizing connections. Claire Lemercier in “Formal network methods in history” argues that “defining a set of ties that can be entered in a data base implies a too often implicit decisions about the time boundaries of the observation and the temporality of ties themselves”.

Knowledge transfers across geographic spaces, from prominent urban centers to peripheral borderlands illustrate this dilemma. Are center-periphery network interactions automatically and consciously shaped by agents? What is the role of connectors? How can one assess the degree of connectivity between center and periphery?

Hungarian intellectual networks centered on Budapest homogenized Hungarian characterology. Groups of ethnographers, racial scientists and anthropologists looked at the Kingdom’s borderlands, such as the Szeklerland in search for the ethnically and morally pure Self. They interacted with Szekler intellectuals on the ground during their research. Addressing Budapest’s attempts to monopolize representations of Szeklerness, elites at the periphery reacted by adopting parts of the center’s discourse on the Hungarian Kingdom’s borderland. In order to support local ambitions to self-representation and political power, Szekler intellectuals tapped into Budapest’s network only insofar as their contacts served their social and political needs. Here, connectors such as journals, novels, intermediaries (e.g. Szekler intellectuals studying in Budapest and bringing their know-how back home) were crucial.

Connections between different networks should not be taken for granted. Ties are neither stable nor of the same quality. Role of connectors should be assessed.


A Transnational Monopoly? Knowledge Networks in the French Tobacco Administration in the 19th Century

In historiography, administrations have been normaly treated as national, regional or local unities that were entangled in the space of a nation, a state or a nation-state in a rather hierachical way. Such a view echoed the general tendency of historians up to the very recent time to limit their scale of investigation to a “national container”. The tobacco administration in France that had been created in 1810/11 could hardly be understood in such a narrow frame. Under the umbrella of the Ministry of Finances, a Parisian central administration and several regional offices were created where bureaucrats and experts were now responsible for the cultivation, the processing and the trade of a whole sector that been private since the early years of the French Revolution. This administrative network was fluid and in part non-hierachical. It can be seen as a relational system where negotiations between the different officials were a common phenomena.

This is particularly important for the knowlege networks of the officials in the tobacco administration. They were not just focused on the legal, social and economic organisation of tobacco cultivation in France, but they also intended to improve the fields that they inherited from times of privat cultivation. The various improvement projects of the tobacco cultivation in France that fell to a strong degree in the hands of the officials had a border crossing dimension. Improving French tobacco fields by agronomic knowlege implied the establishement of various transnational networks. If we look more closer to the group of engineers and chemists in the Parisian central administration, we can observe a particular interest in Cuban as well as Paraguayan tobacco cultures. Parisian experts were sent out to explore plantations and fields in Cuba and Paraguay, evaluate the quality of raw tobacco and, occasionally, to bring seeds and agronomic knowlege from their fields of investigation to France. Travelers identified ‘Cuban’ elements in the practices of tobacco cultivation in Paraguay and pointed to the applicabilty of such routines in Europe.

Although such expertise from Latin America was not homogenously accepted in France – this becomes particularly evident when we take into account the perception of tobacco experts in cultivation areas in the Eastern border area Alsace – such networks point to to the necessity to understand the French tobacco monopoly as a transnational administration.

Punks, Tories and What I Learned at GRAINES Summer School

The GRAINES Summer School certainly opened my eyes on the new paradigm of networks and transnational history. Although aware that such subdisciplines of history exist and the methodology of networks is link to my research I knowledge about was quite limited. It was fascinating to learn about all the ways transnational history and networks can help find new approaches in history.

My own research involves the Punk movement in Britain in the seventies and eighties. I try to establish if there is any interaction between punks and the Conservative party and how they influenced each other. In 1975 the Punk movement took off in London and also Margaret Thatcher became the Leader of the Conservative party. I argue that both were reactions to the depression and problems of the seventies. The Punk an anarchist answer, Thatcherism conservative one. But the similarities do not end here. Both ideologies used the rhetoric of individuality, freedom of choice and selfmademanship. Therefore I argue, that there is a number of former punks, who after the got past their rebellion phase and settled down, voted Tory, as the Thacherist rhetoric was closer to their old thinking than Labour`s.

The study of networks can shed some light on this relationship. I hope that studying the links between members will reveal to what extent this theory is correct. It could show if there existed groups of libertarian punks vs anarchist punks. How big these groups were and how they interacted between each other. It could also reveal what percentage of punks liked just the music or the looks and did care or did not understand the adopted political ideologies.

London was the place where British punk started and was the hub of the punk network. Studying the interconnectivity between cities and scenes could also uncover differences in the punk movement. Were there tensions between punks of metropolitan London and of industrial Manchester? Between those from cities and countryside?

The GRAINES Summer School helped me to find a new approach to my research. It was a thoroughly positive experience. I learned many new things. I am proud I could attend.

Articulating the scales in the Atlantic networks

When I came to the summer school, I was still in the aftermath of submitting and defending my Master’s dissertation and I had been narrowly focused on it for the last few months. Thus, getting to meet other people and their varied topics and perspectives was extremely refreshing and allowed me to broaden my research questions. This was all the more crucial as I was still in the process of submitting my PhD proposal. Discussions with other researchers focused on transnational history and global perspectives helped me to integrate or better formulate some of these questions into my project.

My PhD proposal analyses the constructions and circulations of medical knowledge along Atlantic and Mediterranean networks, between the 1780s and the 1830s. Discussions at various GRAINES seminars focusing on transimperial networks and knowledge production have given me a lot to think about my project. For instance, listening to others’ reactions on a classic Kapil Raj’s text helped me to refine my articulation of local and global knowledge. This was also helped by the links drawn between this and Saunier’s analysis of scales. It encouraged me to conceive different kinds of scales relations instead of a merely hierarchical conceptualisation.

One of the main points of my research is to challenge the idea that the “creole” network by which the colonial physicians appropriated local knowledge in the Caribbeans was a “local” network, while the “Atlantic” network by which this knowledge circulated within French, American or British scientific circles was a “global” one. These discussions provided with new ideas and tools to face this dichotomy by articulating these networks in a more horizontal and polycentric way. Thus, rather than thinking in separated historical scales, like local appropriation and global circulation, these appear as a mix of transatlantic networks that play into each other.

In relation with this idea, I also picked up the concern on how to define these kinds of networks and exchanges of knowledge. A possible term could be trans-imperial rather than transnational, but we could also use more specific terms like translocal.

Another point came from the unconference workshop on the use of maps, which has challenged the basic approach I had of these tools, and has encouraged me to think of more effective ways to convey the information that I present in maps of the networks of hospitals or epidemics in the late 18th – early 19th century Atlantic world.

In conclusion, these new perspectives on scales, visualisation and terminology opened to me new paths in which I can continue my future PhD research.

Borderland areas, Scales and some practical considerations

My master’s thesis deals with migrants and migrants’ expulsions from Uganda in the 1960s and early 1970s. More specifically, I focus on Kenyan and Asian minorities who were progressively excluded and expelled by the Ugandan government with the argument of redistributing economic opportunities to “nationals only”. During my own research, I came across actors who belonged to transborder communities. In particular, Kenyan citizens in Uganda had maintained transnational family and friendship networks that stretched across the Uganda-Kenya border.


During this summer school, I met people who also worked in borderland areas and thereby faced relatively similar challenges. The question of how we identify one’s national belonging came up several times during informal conversations and I was fascinated by the many common points which we could observe between otherwise extremely dissimilar geographical areas (namely, Eastern Europe and East Africa).

In my thesis, the “borderland focus” comes as a “micro” approach within a broader national narrative in which I investigate how a Ugandan nation was delimited in the postcolonial period through the marginalization of “foreigners” on the basis of race and citizenship. Therefore, the question of “scales” is paramount for me and turned out to be a crucial problem explored in this conference. Kenyan and Indian minorities were caught between a fallen British imperial space and the incipient postcolonial nations. The empire having collapsed, these former imperial minorities fell into a limbo and became foreigners in an international system of nation-states. Targeted by nationalist policies, their expulsion caused international tensions between the UK, India and the East African countries. How to integrate the “local” borderland scale with the Ugandan national frame and the international global system was a key-problem that I faced. Therefore, the discussions revolving around the simultaneous integration of various scales (global, imperial, national, local) and the way they interact with one another resonated strongly with my own experience.

However, this interplay of scales and transnational ties also raised practical problems. This point was particularly raised during Patricio’s presentation as well as the Wednesday morning “Research Symposium”. The trouble of having to visit several archival centres in a limited time and on a low budget is undoubtedly an unavoidable limitation while the adoption of a transnational angle pushes researchers to consider an ever-increasing amount of sources spread around the world. Thereby, the question arising is where one may decide to set the limits of one’s own topic and artificially “cut” a study’s ramifications.


From borderland issues to practical questions, I was glad to enjoy this opportunity to exchange perspectives and know-how with more experienced researchers. Surely, this conference will help me overcome obstacles on the road to presenting my own PhD project.

Interconnecting young tourists: towards a network analysis of the «sexual revolution»?

My current project is addressing the relationship between the «sexual revolution» and youth tourism in Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. I am exploring young tourists from West Germany, UK and Greece. I am probing the connectivity that appeared among them during their vacations, both while travelling to specific destinations and while staying in those locations, focusing on the issue whether such connectivity affected their sexual patterns.


I am dealing with loosely-knit, non-institutionalised networks of young people, whose connectivity was established «on the move» and while they were away from «home». These people had simultaneously developed a feeling of common belonging to a broad, transnational imagined community encompassing young people, a feeling based on similar lifestyles, including fashion and hairstyle, for instance. The connectivity I am analysing, however, did not necessarily lead to long-term contact between the young people under study.


During the Summer School I have begun to reflect more extensively on a number of issues linked with the connectivity of those people. A first issue is whether the members of the peer groups of young people formed during youth travel would describe their connectivity as network. Put differently, I am interested in whether «network» can be used both as an analytical category (etic) and as a term employed by the young people under study (emic). This is an open question and to adequately tackle this I believe that it is important that I am sensitive to both the etic and the emic level. Thus, the concept of network can be complemented with other ones, such as that of «subjectivity» (Passerini) or even «emotional community» (Rosenwein) that help shed light on how the people under study conceived (and felt about) their connectivity.


A second challenge is linked with how to produce a multiscalar analysis, an issue raised, for instance, in Struck, Ferris, Revel, 2011, but also in Saunier’s text that we discussed during the Summer School. My challenge is to avoid methodological nationalism, while not neglecting the “elephant in the room”, namely the potential importance of the nation-state. In this vein, I am thinking of addressing the latter by showing the particularities of the differing political condition of the countries under study (eg Greece was ruled by a dictatorial regime between 1967 and 1974) and their impact of the freedom on the youth to travel and experiment in terms of sexual patterns. On the other hand, however, I believe that I need to be as specific as possible about the location from where the travellers departed and the locations that they visited. In this case, the level of the nation-state may be deceptive, since not every young person from every single village in Greece engaged in youth tourism. Thus, I aim to make my analysis both trans-national and trans-local, hoping to stress the importance of both the national and the local level.


The third challenge is whether it makes sense to design a set of maps to accompany and better illustrate my argument. In a sense, an interactive map, as described by Konrad Lawson in today’s unconference, would help demonstrate the concrete itineraries and trans-local connections of the young people in question. On the other hand, however, I fear that some important dimensions might not be included in these maps. For instance, travelling was an intense sensual experience, which may not be captured by just showing the itineraries from a point of departure to a destination. In addition, it seems to be an insurmountable challenge to find sufficient data that captures the exact itineraries that young tourists followed in the 1960s-1970s- for instance, they may mention only some of the visited destinations in diaries, letters, oral testimonies etc.


In brief, the Summer School has helped me develop a number of open questions about the type and scale of interconnectedness between the young tourists in question as well as whether these can be visualized. The answers, however, require further reflection.



Networking and friends

Friendship is a natural ally of networks. If you wanted to visualise friendship in any way, you would probably choose some network-like structure. Because I was interested in some form of visualisation of the friendship networks I am working on, I applied for the Interconnected Summer School. In the end, I did not really get to know any concrete tools or software to use in my research — quite the opposite: Firstly, I found myself in good company being sceptic of social network analysis as it is usually implemented in the social sciences; moreover, others were also having difficulties defining their networks and conceptualising the links they want to establish. Secondly, Claire Lemercier’s article on networks in historical research proved really helpful, because she warns against using network analysis carelessly and directing the attention to the fact that “networks” are rather a means than an end of historical research.

So I will definitely go home bearing in mind that the closeness of friendship and networks is not inevitable; and that it is worth thinking carefully about which specific method (in contrast to a vague general concept of network) to employ and to what end. However, this is also what I missed: It would surely have been interesting to move the focus from specific research projects (which tend to be difficult to relate to for those who are not to some extent familiar with the subject) to more methodological and theoretical reflections.

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