Dispersed thoughts on egodocuments

Anne Frank - 80th birth anniversary

– Image by © ADE JOHNSON/epa/Corbis

What if the refugees of nowadays, whether from Syria or any part of the globe, keep diaries that could be used for historians in the near future to tell the story of their fleeing affliction over the so called “refugees crisis”? Would they have become iconic figures of their wars and suffering? Would they have got the right to own a house in new nation? Would they have been translated in other languages? Would people cry on their accounts? There would be movies and museums for them? Would they have earned a NAME?

Just some foolish questions while reading a text that recalls what the Amsterdam historian Jacques Presser* has written in 1947 about Anne Frank [and her diary]: she was a stateless refugee when she died. As well remarked in The Diaries of Anne Frank – Research – Translation – Critical Edition project description: Around the world, many children and teenagers have read and are still reading editions of Anne´s diaries—either at school or in private. In the biography of many readers, as well as in national commemorative cultures, the engagement with the war and the Holocaust began with the diary of Anne Frank. It became a symbol.
*Presser coined the controversial neologism of “egodocument”, which at that time, was the body of sources of main interest to him: autobiographies, diaries, letters…. “those documents in which an ego deliberately or accidentally discloses or hides itself”.


Dekker, Rudolf. ‘Jacques Presser’s Heritage: Egodocuments in the Study of History’, in Memoria y Civilización 5 (2002), pp. 13-37.

For more publications on egodocuments, see the Center for the Study of Egodocuments and History

2015. A visual epilogue

Edgardo Catalán; "Palimpsesto", Acuarela, 47x38 cms. 1998.

Edgardo Catalán; “Palimpsesto”, Acuarela, 47×38 cms. 1998.

The long 2015 year is almost ending and the feeling of retrospectives comes over, even if I (We, mortal historians) know the calendar is only a convention (but a very strong convention).

I liked this Palimpsest painting from the Chilean artist Edgardo Catalán to resume my year, but opening other windows. I came across it when looking for some visual references on mosaic and palimpsest concept, while thinking on a paper I am writing for the XIXth International Oral History Conference (2016, Bengalore). I’ve got surprised because I started to write this retrospective and I got to an article written by Sergio Rojas on Catalán’s work, which title and subtitle are/were pretty expressive and meaningful for the right moment in which I am writing this blog post. Yet, the epigraph and as well as the first lines of the text catched me in a pungent, emotional way:


Serendipity, I thought. Not only the word of “retrospective” was there, but the epigraph on Ithaca (which I highly recalled on my first post the PhD research diary, starting this year), and the beautiful description of such an artistic work that gets to bring together, visually, all the enchanting voices of memory. And I was so grateful to Dr. Google today for giving me the pleasure of this synesthetic experience in a matter of minutes.

I enjoy the catharsis effect of those coincidences and self-identification. It is very soothing and rewarding that an artistic piece, even when the eye contact is digitally mediated, can bring you to a certain point of release.  Now I got this feeling that I should get a flight to Chile and come to meet Catalán and his painted poetics in person. Ok, one more thing for my to-do list of dreams.

By now, I just would like to share with you (who are you, my presumed readers?) this awe-inspiring piece that, somehow, resume my year, both in the sense of summarizing its multiples layers, but also the in resuming function of re-starting something that have been paused. So I hope now, after settling down at a new University, in a new Country, with new and amazing colleagues, I will be able to continue my life, smoothly, from January on, back to my sanity, after all moving stress and adaptation.

Happy “everything”, people!

E schéine Chrëschtdag an e glécklecht neit Joer!

Bonne Fête!

Feliz Natal e um ótimo Ano de 2016 para todos nós!

I wish history can keep being passionate and surprising to us in 2016. Let’s hope, mankind will do it better.

Ps: Just thinking that this image could also be a good prologue for 2016. Thanks, Edgardo Catalán! Things keep being connected ans sinergic. 🙂

[PhD Research Diary] First entry “Everything is connected now”

When you depart for Ithaca, wish for the road to be long,

full of adventure, full of knowledge.

from Ithaca (Ἰθάκη),  by Konstantinos Kavafis.*

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 11.05.09

Detail of The Siren Vase, an Attic pottery from 480BC-470BC (circa)

This is the first of a serie of posts I expect to share with you during the next three years of my life, which I will dedicate to my PhD research at the Digital History Lab (website coming soon) of the University of Luxembourg, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Andreas Fickers. And you are welcome to follow the outstanding upcoming stories in the tag PhD Research Diary.  🙂

As all the new beginnings, this introductory post makes me feel a little bit self-reflexive. Looking at my life in the rearview, I would say now it is everything connected, from a very personal point of view.  The first time I got interested in the subject of Digital History I was in Europe, more precisely, in Italy (where the above pottery is supposed to be found), for my first study experience abroad, at the Università Degli Studi di Firenze. Now, I am back to the Continent with another baggage experience, and a slightly better understanding of the importance of travels for our personal life stories, and (why not?) for the “big” History.

I like that now, beyond be researching something that, I hope, will be useful to my colleagues working in the field of History in a near future, I will also be working directly with people, either because this project is also a public history project, either because I will be using oral history methods. Or, yet, because, afterwards, I hope my research can bring some effective contribution to the reality of so many people who have ever experienced what it is to be an immigrant. Well, it is actually bold to say that, but one can always dream (and I have some affinity with John Lennon).

I say that because, in this PhD, the investigation about the consequences of digital technologies, new tools and methods for the historiographical operation is not the unique propose of my research. Now, in addition to the issues that I was already asking myself in the last years, partly present in my Master Thesis, completed at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, I got many new things on my plate, just to mention a few keywords: migration, memory, oral history, public history… and all the whole new worlds each topic can unfold to me.  I am still familiarising with new literature and trying to find myself in this new scenario. I am curious and anxious to know what is to come. At the moment, the plan is developing a more detailed version of the research project Shaping a digital memory platform on migration narratives? A public history project on Italian and Portuguese migration memories in Luxembourg. I hope to have it done, including a research timeline and a well structure writing plan by the end of this first semester. In this meanwhile, there will be other posts here, but you are free (and I would be pleased) to send me questions, suggestions, critics or just a “hello/salut/moien!” at any time you like. I would really appreciate to receive comments and advice, specially in what concern migration History, Italian and Portuguese emigration/immigration to Luxembourg. So, please, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or writing me an e-mail if you have an idea (all ideas are good, until proven otherwise).

Of course, all this novelty can be frightening, to some extent, but at the same time, it is so fascinating to have the opportunity to dive in a very different thing. Not to mention that I am changing too, I moved from Rio de Janeiro to Luxembourg Ville, I left my family, friends and cats, I am learning a new language, dealing with different weather, enjoying other landscapes, aromas and flavours… and this can sound hard, but actually it is way exciting! I have to grow up here, and this is probably the major challenge beyond everything. It is hard, but so good to go out of inertia. And, at the end, I think I am a lucky person: it is not so far from my family in Florence and, also for academic reasons, I have some very special people to support me in Europe at the moment.

Perhaps I should apologize for the intimate tone of a post that is supposed to open a new tag on my professional life (oh, that sounded philosophical!). But as I will argue later about the importance of seeking certain hybridism on the combination of historiographical traditions with the new digital history, here too I think it is somewhat necessary to think about personal and professional life together. It’s so difficult to separate the “Anita-Anita” from the “Anita-historian”, it is everything connected. I hope you do not mind. I promise, next time, give less attention to my personal matters. After all, you do not want to know, for example, how I feel having to turn on the heater in October. As my ex-supervisor used to say, sometimes I just need to remember that words are to say something, not “to flourish” it. Thank you, Dilton! Also that lesson you taught me, but you also taught me to be rebel, and here I am. But I hope, for this first post, everybody will forgive me, even Prof. Dr. Dilton Maynard.

*I could do anything unless remember Kavafis/Cavafy’s poem when I started to write this post, which in turn, reminds me of Professor Manoel Luiz Salgado Guimarães (for those who read Portuguese, see here),  whose work, teaching and passion for history inspired me a lot. He show us – the undergrad students at that time – this poem in one of his last lessons, in his last course. I will never forget. And this inspiration is undoubtedly enough to give me the determination to face whatever is coming, in the better way as possible, with a good feeling in the heart, and seeing things with good eyes, keeping Ithaca always in my mind.

PS: I have to thank my office mate Max Kemman for the brilliant idea of working with some music in the background. It was just perfect to finish this post listening to Caetano Veloso’s Transa, an album from 1972, when Brazil were under the military dictatorship, and Caetano had to spent some time in a political exile in London. Caetano was right, it is a long, long, long way.

5 Big Data Projects That Could Impact Your Life

O que podemos fazer com “big-data”?

Ver: 5 Big Data Projects That Could Impact Your Life

Estimulante o post de Eric Larson no Mashable sobre curiosos projetos que trabalham com big-data, ou seja, tratam informática e digitalmente quantidades imensas de informações (humanamente, inapreensíveis para uma pessoa só, diga-se de passagem) que podem acabar oferencendo resultados bem interessantes. Para o caso da História, em particular, vale pensar no que pode dar o cruzamento do Geographic Information System (GIS) com dados sobre o passado.

O artigo cita o projeto Interactive Gettysburg: Modern Maps Reframe History, mas nessa direção vale também conferir o Montréal l’avenir du passé (MAP).

A respeito do MAP, vale conferir o artigo de Robert Sweeny sobre as oportunidades que se abrem ao se cruzar as fronteiras disciplinares e trabalhar em um ambiente colaborativo, intermediado pela tecnologia, como no diálogo entre História e Geografia de MAP: Rethinking Boundaries: Interdisciplinary Lessons from the Montréal l’avenir du passé (MAP) Project.