Discussion

von by participants of the symposium Original in German, angezeigt indisplayed in EnglischEnglish

Professor Claudine Moulin, Trier Center for Digital Humanities, University of Trier

In this second section, there are a whole series of initial questions. I would just like to repeat them briefly: How does the embeddedness of the specialist editors in national contexts affect the selections of topics and authors? What possibilities and limitations lie in the programmatic bilinguality of the EGO offering? Bilinguality applies in this project specifically to English and German. How do non-native English speakers receive the translations of German-language EGO articles? And finally – and this is one of many questions and we could think of many more – what alternatives or additional aspects to the concept of translation – which is also a transfert culturel – are conceivable?

Professor László Kontler, Central European University, Budapest

I wonder if there was a lot in your contribution, dear Dr Jorio, to which I can respond. There were a few points though that perhaps require a response. Indeed my contribution seems to have pointed to the, perhaps, unhealthy preponderance of germanophone articles and germanophone scholarship, even when it is translated to English now. What I wanted to stress is that in spite of the fact that it is from a germanophone, Central European academic backgrounds that most of the articles come, they are a proof that transnational and comparative history is very cultivated on a very high level in these academic environments. You recalled the Waldensians in South Germany, namely that the article's scope is too narrow and it may not lend itself readily to a transnational understanding of European history. I can very well imagine a properly transnational treatment of the Waldensians, which is after all a transnational religious community and movement, in precisely local contexts. There are a couple of similar articles which I am familiar with. And we discuss such phenomena in properly restricted local regional confines and they are just okay. They are perfectly acceptable as pieces of transnational history.

Claudine Moulin

Referring back to Mr Jorio's suggestions and his experiences with the Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, one could apply the idea of the intercultural reviewing of articles to EGO to the extent that the bibliographies are also taken into account – whether they reflect a certain internationality. Whether the author comes from the German-speaking territory or not is less important compared to this. It is more important that the literature cited is not being presented in a one-sided manner and that this literature documents the international dimension of the respective field of research.

Dr Marco Jorio, Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, Bern

I have also thought about what I would do in the next phase of such a big publication project. I don't think that I would increase the number of articles. But I think one could give the existing articles to colleagues from different countries, if the content of the respective article is relevant to their countries, and ask them to comment on the articles. What does this topic look like from a Spanish, Swedish or Lithuanian perspective? I can imagine that EGO could gain greater European depth in this way. In principle, it is irrelevant who writes the article, whether they are German, German-speaking, or from another background. But I am convinced that through collaborative writing and evaluation the perspective of EGO could be broadened and deepened.

Professor Wolfgang Schmale, Department of History, University of Vienna

I am not convinced that applying the technique in the way you are describing will move EGO forward. While you were both speaking, I went through the authors who I know in my head. Most of them have some kind of a "migration background". Most of them have lived and worked in different countries, and they speak multiple languages. And I maintain that they are in fact our European authors who – due to differentiated life and work contexts – no longer have a national perspective to start with. By contrast, joining various languages together would – in my view – not in itself achieve a better result. I therefore raise the fundamental question whether it is really of use to look at where the editors and authors are based. Whether they are Germanophone or Anglophone – what does that really tell us? I am sceptical in this regard.

Professor Immacolata Amodeo, Villa Vigoni, Loveno di Menaggio

Would you say that the fact that there are so many German authors, does this imply a German perspective and what would this perspective look like?

László Kontler

As I was trying to emphasise in my "computing section", although the statistics would demonstrate to a crudely mathematical observer that there is a preponderance of the German perspective in the composition of EGO. What I want to emphasise is that although the impression one gets from the composition of the names of the authors one has this general preponderance but when one looks at the bibliographies of each of the articles, this is not conspicuous at all. After all, though one obviously cannot engage in a prosopographical study of the collective of the authors, the academic formation of most of them cannot be described as narrowly "national". In this sense, contrary to appearances, this is a proper transnational project.

Professor Helmuth Trischler, German Museum, Munich

We know that "Europe" is often constructed outside Europe, for example in the transatlantic world, in the colonial world. Is this "entangled history" adequately reflected in EGO? Therefore I put the question to you, have you ever applied this standard to the non-European articles? One would expect that the contributions of Japanese or Anglo-American authors would incorporate these transatlantic, colonial, and post-colonial enmeshments. Have you identified a different perspective there?

László Kontler

I have not made my statistics on those grounds. It occurred to me that it would be an interesting comparative perspective, scouting the national background of the authors. And I felt very prominent in our discussions in the editorial board from the beginning that the view of Europe from the outside and the view of Europe in its relationship with the non-European world needs to be brought into the horizon of the entire site. I think we are lagging behind a little bit in actually procuring the articles that have been commissioned on such topics. But they are on the menu, and I think that the balance in that regard is quite satisfactory.

Professor Jürgen Wilke, Institute of Media Studies and Communication, University of Mainz

I also have my doubts whether the countries of origin of the authors is an appropriate criteria for evaluating this internationality because one would have to look more closely at what this actually tells us. Do the Germans write more "nationally" than authors in other countries? Several Americans are involved. Do they write in a more "European" way than we do? Or was it not their task to contribute to this European perspective? Were they supposed to contribute an additional perspective from outside of Europe instead? We could approach the problem in a more concrete manner. The geographical places dealt with in the EGO articles are also recorded and represented cartographically. Thus, we could compile statistics on these locations, and then we would be able to identify the degree to which various countries are represented. One can predict that there are clusters – central European clusters – while "peripheral Europe", if I can call it that, is probably less well represented. This would give a more meaningful indication of the internationality or Europeanization of the content than the countries of origin of the authors.

Professor Horst Pietschmann, Department of History, University of Hamburg

Yes, there is also the point that we must acknowledge the fact that there are also fundamental differences between the European regions and countries regarding the formation of concepts, periodization and the names used for historical periods. What we refer to as the Völkerwanderung (migration of the peoples) is still known as the "Invasion of the Barbarians" in Italy. One could list several such important differences. While we view the Early Modern Period as beginning around the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth century due to Columbus, Luther and other developments, the Italian Mediterranean expert Guiseppe Galasso noted a few years ago that for Italy and the Mediterranean region the period of the Renaissance and the modern era began from around 1415 onward, that is, 100 years earlier.

"Nation" [English pronunciation] as a concept cannot be translated using our term "Nation" [German pronunciation]. In English, Indian tribes are also referred to as "nations", just as another example. There are many such problems, which one as the editor of a project like EGO must – in my view – confront. Consequently, it is recommendable to decide on certain emphases, unless one decides – and that would be an alternative – to address such fundamental differences in meaning and contradictory focuses in concept formation, periodization, etc. online in advance.

László Kontler

I think that Herr Wilke's observations go in the direction that I was also trying to emphasise. I don't think that German authors write differently about these questions. There are also a couple of Italian authors who have been contributing to the selection and I do not believe that they write differently, for instance about European encounters with the non-European world, from Britons or Scandinavians. It ultimately depends on the selection of the specific authors that we request to submit articles to us, and I think that for the most part this has worked in the direction that serves the purposes of the venture.

Marco Jorio

As I said earlier, the country of origin of the author is irrelevant in my view. Germans do not write more nationalistically than others – not at all. But what you, Professor Pietschmann, have mentioned is the interesting aspect of a comparative history of Europe, that is, that the historiographical terms are different because the historiographical traditions vary between the individual linguistic regions. Not everywhere, but where such differences exist, they should be referred to.

Professor Irene Dingel, IEG, Mainz

Mr Jorio, since you mentioned the Waldensians, I can't get that article out of my head. Of course, every article has room for improvement and deserves improvement. However, I think that this article nicely demonstrates that EGO has consciously departed from the encyclopaedic approach. In this case, we had received an article that was structured like an encyclopaedia entry. We sent it back to be reworked and requested that cultural transfers be dealt with, and the result was – not surprisingly given the state of research – a narrowly focused article. This demonstrates, on the one hand, how EGO gives a perspective on European history and, on the other hand, sometimes has to narrow the focus.

Professor Klaus Fitschen, Institute of Church History, University of Leipzig

I don't wish to quibble, but the Waldensians article has now been mentioned a number of times. The title is indeed somewhat confusing, I agree with you on that, but this narrowing of focus is not in the article. It is without doubt a classic chronological history of confessional migrations, which also takes account of links with Reformed Switzerland. Thus, it is not that small and narrow. But I fully accept the term "room for improvement".

Professor Ruth-E. Mohrmann, Sub-department of Ethnology and European Ethnology, University of Münster

I have a question for you, Mr Jorio. I don't know how many of these ambitious projects there are in Switzerland, but I know of one which is now more than 20 years old. It is the three-volume Handbuch der schweizerischen Volkskultur by Paul Hugger. It was published in 1992 in three languages. Of course, I'm only aware of the reaction in Germany, how the German edition was received. I am aware, however, that there were a number of fairly critical reactions in Switzerland, particularly regarding the translation difficulties which you refer to. My question relates to this. In German, French and Italian, you have of course three very important European languages at your disposal. But is the fact that English is not included a problem given that it is now the lingua franca in the academic world of today? I know from the tales of my predecessor and his predecessor that after 1945 German continued to be the language of academic life in many areas, especially in the context of contact with eastern European countries, where English was hardly present at all and they didn't want to use Russian. Is the absence of English in Switzerland perceived as a deficiency? Or what is the attitude to this?

Marco Jorio

That is very clearly a deficiency, but in order not to increase the complexity even more we decided, for the moment at least, to go with three full editions and the Romansch abridged edition, that is, with three and a half linguistic versions. In the case of the new HLS, we are considering producing an electronic abridged edition in English, in which only the more important entries will appear – for example, the Reformation, the Second World War, perhaps also entries on the larger urban centres and important persons. We know that the electronic version of HLS is often accessed from outside the German, Italian and French-speaking world, and when these people see the HLS does not contain anything in English, they leave the site again. Our trilinguality clearly excludes a large proportion of potential users in the world. We would like to publish in English right away, but we are not yet allowed to.

Claudine Moulin

I would like to take up this point and relate it to the situation of EGO. When I talk about EGO in the context of the "European Science Foundation", it is primarily my French-speaking counterparts who react and point out that the articles in it are only published in English and German. Is it not be possible, they ask, to establish a French version, at least for the main articles? One could say that French academics should be able to read English-language articles, but that is not the decisive point. I think their wish is also motivated by a desire to use EGO articles in class and as part of undergraduate courses, for example, and possibly also in secondary school. Thus, it is worth considering this suggestion, not to publish all of the content in French, but perhaps to offer the main articles in this third language.

This brings me to the point about the alternatives to the principle of translation. Mr Jorio has demonstrated that it is possible to have different authors working on the same topic – in the case of EGO, that has only happened in a very small number of cases to date. One could also work with abstracts in different languages to at least make it possible to search the site in French, and to give Francophone users the option of then having the search results translated into French or of reading them in German, if they are able to.

For the purpose of comparison, I consulted another project, the research and documentation platform "CVCE, Centre virtuel de la connaissance sur l’Europe", which offers documentation on European history since 1945 and also dossiers thématiques, which correspond to the "threads" in EGO. Monique Backes, director of CVCE, told me the following: Their langue pivot is French, but they are now converting to English and are trying to offer everything trilingually, including the homepage and at least the dossiers thématiques. And the primary sources that they offer will, if they are in languages other than the three offered, also be translated into English. This requires enormous resources. And they have a team of full-time translators who only translate documents into one of the big target languages, so that the users can also incorporate the sources into their research work.

With the users in mind, I asked myself if we should offer similar multilingual teaching materials and additional materials, such as the maps for example, in a separate forum in EGO. So that perhaps more teachers would view EGO as something that is useful to them and that the platform would gain greater visibility in university teaching also.

As regards "crowd sourcing" and the participation of users by means of comments, I am somewhat sceptical, particularly in view of the experience which other projects have had in this area, but perhaps these practices will become better established in the future. In general, however, the wish for another type of participation beyond the didactic format is fully understandable, and additional didactic materials which are based on the EGO articles might well be of interest to the users.

Benjamin Kireenko, junior research fellow, IEG, Mainz

As a research fellow at the IEG, I would like to speak about the project from the user's perspective. I asked myself the question, what is the exact target group? Is it researchers and academics, or is it politicians and teachers? When the user calls up an article, he or she must in the first moment process a considerable amount of impressions and does not know whether a research discussion is being presented or source material is being presented in visual form. For the purposes of clarity, this should be made obvious and corresponding subcategories should be created. Thus, my reaction would be to differentiate between various users and to categorize the website accordingly.

Dr Britta Müller-Schauenburg, Sankt Georgen, Frankfurt am Main

Since we are talking about transnationality. As an author, I wrote an article on an Orthodox theological network, and I noticed that the national perspective didn't actually play a significant role, as is the case in theology generally. This boundary is, I think, primarily a feature of historical studies. With regard to your suggestion that the articles should be reviewed transnationally, it occurs to me – from the perspective of theology – that having articles reviewed transconfessionally or even in an interreligious fashion could also offer an interesting collaborative perspective. If I talk to a Hungarian – or an Italian or a Greek – Catholic theologian, this does not actually represent the main divide in the perspective on historical events. But as soon as I turn to the Orthodox denomination, or change between Protestant and Catholic perspectives, even in the case of an event to which Theology was not centrally relevant, it would be interesting to have these perspectives reviewed by the other side. This boundary between the implicit religious standpoints, I would find it interesting to reflect and thematize this in the context of plurality of perspective.

Translated by: Niall Williams
Copy Editor: Claudia Falk

Citation

N.N.: Discussion Section 2, in: Joachim Berger (ed.), EGO | European History Online – Aims and Implementation, Mainz 2013-12-15. URL: http://www.ieg-ego.eu/discussion2-2013-en URN: urn:nbn:de:0159-20140217166 [YYYY-MM-DD].

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