Exploring refugee data. Hands-on workshop on refugees and digital humanities

Datum konání: 
12. 11. 2018, 0:00 to 13. 11. 2018, 0:00


  • Monday, November 12: Technology Centre, Czech Academy of Sciences, Ve Struhách 1076/27, Prague 6
  • Tuesday, November 13: Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Masarykův ústav a Archiv AV ČR), Gabčíkova 2362/10, Prague 8


What new insights can digital humanities offer to the history of refugeedom in order provide better understanding of trajectories of refugees and their interaction with state and non-state actors? How can computer-driven analysis, using small and big data approaches, help us learn more about refugee agency and decisions? This hands-on workshop will engage historians, social scientists and experts in digital humanities in conversation and experimentation about digital methodologies and forced displacement.

Perceived, described and depicted as a multitude, a crowd or even a “wave,” refugees tend to be grouped together and ascribed common, often negative and dehumanising, characteristics – be it in public discourse or administrative language. States, but also aid organizations, aim to control and administer, sort and categorize refugees. To counter such hegemonic views, historians and social scientists have explored refugee agency and representations and provided critical accounts of such classifications.

Yet, reconstructing refugee trajectories, decisions and interactions from below is confronted with a number of methodological and source-related challenges related to their mobility and specific circumstances of flight. Researchers face bringing together information from dispersed, diverse and multilingual sources of various creators. The focus on refugee agency foregrounds the question of integration of individual decisions and actions into the broader structural frameworks (as state refugee policies, etc.).

Nazi-era refugees provide an excellent case study not only due to the significance and size of this group, but also due to the availability of extensive and diverse data sets in form of digitized archival collections, oral history archives and name documentation projects. Therefore, a large volume of data is available for evaluating digital approaches to refugee history which can provide new views reaching beyond the established narratives often shaped by governments and aid organizations. Taking Nazi-era refugees as a departure, the workshop wishes to examine methods and possibilities of digital historiography of forced displacement, and in a broader sense of digital methods, of capturing human mobility in history.

Furthermore, the workshop aims to help bridge the gap between disciplines and resources: whereas historians, archivists and social scientists collect and analyse data, they often are not able to apply the methods and tools of digital humanities. It invites multidisciplinary approaches – for instance – from history, migration studies, historical geography, oral history and digital humanities.

We wish to explore, from the perspective of digital humanities, methodologies, standards and models to trace the movement and interaction of individuals and groups in space and time, to extract information from large, diverse and multilingual archival sources, analysis of historical networks driving refugee migration, spatial studies, linguistic analysis of documents and testimonies and other approaches. We are interested in testing how building visualisations of refugee experience can advance the research process.


The workshop is organized by the Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences in cooperation with the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI), which aims to improve access to Holocaust-related collections and supports Holocaust research.






Monday, November 12

venue: Technology Centre, Czech Academy of Sciences, Ve Struhách 1076/27, Prague 6

9.30 – 10.00 Opening Comments

  • Rudolf Kučera (Prague)
  • Michal Frankl (Prague, Vienna)

10.00 – 11.30 Trajectories of flight overseas

  • Antoine Burgard (Manchester), Mapping uncertainty: Reconstructing the trajectories of young Holocaust survivors from wartime Europe to postwar Canada
  • Rebecca Erbelding (Washington, DC), “The Last Boat”: The Impact of the Encroaching War on Refugee Immigration to the United States, 1938–1941
  • Sara Halpern (Columbus, OH), The ‘Hard Core’ and ‘Hard-Hard Core’ of Shanghai: Exploring the Personal Data of Forced Jewish Repatriates in 1950

11.30 – 11.45 Coffee Break

11.45 – 12.30 European Holocaust Research Infrastructure and refugee history

  • Giles Bennett (Munich) – Mike Bryant (London), The EHRI project
  • Francesco Gelati (Brussels), Extracting Refugee-related Archival Descriptions in the EHRI Portal
  • Wolfgang Schellenbacher (Prague, Vienna), The EHRI Document Blog - “BeGrenzte Flucht”

12.30 – 13.00 Lunch Break

13.00 – 14.30 Hands-on Session

14.30 – 16.15 Government Immigration and Refugee Files

  • Aneta Plzáková (Prague)Benjamin Frommer (Evanston, IL), The Terezín Album project and refugee data [preliminary title]
  • Laurence Schram (Mechelen), Kazerne Dossin: a resource center to study trajectories of Jewish refugees?
  • Anne Knowles – Justus Hillebrand (Orono, ME), Mapping Movement to and from Ghettos

16.15 – 16.30 Coffee Break

16.30 – 17.30 Decoding Statistics and Categorisations

  • Anne Schult (New York), Counting Displaced Persons, Defining Refugees: Sir John Hope Simpson’s Refugee Survey of Interwar Europe
  • Discussion on data statistics and categorisations chair: Daniel Cohen (Vienna)


Tuesday, November 13

venue: Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Masarykův ústav a Archiv AV ČR), Gabčíkova 2362/10, Prague 8

9.00 – 10.00 Flight Trajectories I

  • Claire Zalc, Thomas Chopard (Paris), How to reconstruct the trajectories of 3000 Polish-Jewish refugees? Three methodological issues
  • Miriam Schulz (New York), Bind Up (and Digitize) the Message: Polish-Jewish Refugees and the Vilna Committee, 1939–1940

10.00 – 10.10 Coffee Break

10.10 – 11.10 Flight Trajectories II

  • Nicoletta Fotinos, Tracing Jewish Medical Refugees across Sources around the Globe – The Curious Case of Escape Artist Dr. Gisella Perl
  • Kinga Frojimovics (Vienna), Jewish Refugees in the Hospitals of the Jewish Community of Pest in 1938–1944

11.10 – 11.20 Coffee Break

11.20 – 12.20 Complex data and refugee research

  • Sebastian Bondzio – Lukas Hennies (Osnabrück), People on the Move – Revisiting events and narratives of the European refugee crisis (1930s-1950s)
  • Ron Coleman – Michael Levy – Joshua Zampetti (Washington, DC) – Michal Frankl (Prague, Vienna), Refugee Case Files

12.20 – 12.50 Lunch Break

12.50 – 14.00 Hands-on Session

14.00 – 15.30 Refugees in Post-war Europe

  • Alexandra Kramen (Worcester, MA), Justice Pursued: Jewish Survivors’ Struggle for Post-Holocaust Justice in Displaced Persons Camp Föhrenwald, 1945–1957
  • Christian Groh (Bad Arolsen), The digitized collection of the “Care and Maintenance”-files of the IRO. Chances and limitations of (online) research in digital historiography
  • Jakub Bronec (Luxembourg), Cultural and educational activities of the Jewish minorities in Czechoslovakia and Luxembourg (1945–89)

15.30 – 15.45 Coffee Break

15.45 – 16.45 Refugee Data and Education

  • Jakub Mlynář (Prague), Collective memory as an interactional practice: The case of the Czech-Jewish experience in Switzerland during the WWII period
  • Tanja Lenuweit (Berlin), We Refugees. Transnational Digital Research and Education Center on Refugees

16.45 – 17.30 Concluding remarks and discussion


The workshop is open to the public, but participants who aren’t speakers or chairs are kindly asked to register no later than November 8, 2018 at frankl@mua.cas.cz.


Programme (pdf)

Call for Papers (pdf)

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