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Projects 2020

Here you can find some examples of previous projects and output.

Supervisors: Prof. dr. Isabelle Duyvesteyn and Dr. Marina Calculli
Research trainees: Alies Jansen and Leon Pauw

The article we are in the process of finalising carries the title 'Rebel Strategies and Pathways to Islam; Islamist armed groups and the politics of legitimacy after the Arab Uprisings'. Our main research puzzle is how to understand the strategic practices of rebel groups, in particular Hezbollah and the Islamic State. We aim to find out how rebel groups develop narratives to rationalise and make sense of their practices in front of various audiences. How do they reconcile their words with their deeds? Under what conditions do narratives used by rebel groups lead to support or conversely to harm for their operations and how are they linked ultimately to their capacity to survive?

Research trainees: Tanya Hart and Myrthe Galle
Supervisors: Dr. Krista Murchison and Dr. Alisa van de Haar

One of the aims of this project was to conduct a comparison of specific language guides from  pre-modern England and the Low Countries. The students conducted this comparison and, in the process, were able to advance some of the key research questions of this project. In particular, the project aimed to uncover evidence of everyday French use in the regions under investigation. The students working on the project identified several fascinating examples of such language use in the corpus of texts under investigation. 

Originally, we planned to share the outcomes of this project with the broader audience through an exhibition in collaboration with the Walloon Church in Leiden. Due to the pandemic, this exhibition did not take place, but we are confident that the contacts with the Walloon Church that have been established through the project will lead to further collaborative events in the future - and perhaps an exhibition at a later date. 

The results of this project were initially going to be communicated in a conference presentation at the 2020 medieval congress in Lleida. Unfortunately, this conference was cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic situation. Plans to present the findings elsewhere are currently under discussion.

Aside from this conference presentation, the findings of the project will be shared with the general public through a blog post for the Leiden Medievalists Blog. This blog post is completed and is forthcoming.

Finally, the research trainees have been collecting evidence for the sake of an academic article. The evidence that they have gathered provides valuable information about the use of French in England and in the Low Countries during the pre-modern period and offers support for the view that French played a greater role in domestic contexts than was once believed. 

Research trainees: Manon van den Brekel and Jamie Slater, with additional help from Filippo Brunner
Supervisors: Dr. Anne-Isabelle Richard and Dr. Vera Scepanovic

The purpose of our project was to map out methods and resources we could use to design a larger research project about the change in the relationship between the European Union and the former colonies of EU member states in Africa. We were especially interested in the way that an essentially trade relationship was being instrumentalized in the pursuit of non-trade objectives: economic, social, and geopolitical and how different venues interacted.

The specific objective of the project was to collect publicly available documents from the meetings between the representatives of the EU and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP), analyze the documents in order to assess their potential for in-depth research, and identify gaps as well as alternative sources of information.

With the help of our trainees, we collected a large number of documents from the meetings of the EU-ACP committee of ministers, the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, and three parliamentary sub-committees. We also conducted preliminary analysis of those documents using qualitative analysis software Atlas.ti to test for their usefulness in conducting research on the specific aspects of this relationship (regulation of migration, return of cultural goods, environmental protection, and the impact of the EU’s Eastern enlargement). We conducted an interview with a former ACP official and laid the groundwork for further interviews.

These preliminary studies took longer than expected due to the demands of learning new software, and the impact of COVID-19. However, they were very useful for identifying and processing the relevant literature, and learning more about the potential of our sources, their limitations, and the possible alternatives. The document analysis showed that the official sources contain very limited information and that some of the key documents cannot be obtained at all, and that therefore more in-depth research would have to rely more heavily on secondary sources and literature and interviews.

The benefits of the traineeship for the trainees have been:

  • A chance to participate in the preliminary steps of a research project and understand how researchers go about identifying a question and the available sources (and drawing up contingency plans)
  • A chance to learn about and practice using advanced text analysis software
  • A chance to develop and publish an independent piece of writing. These pieces are now in the final stages and will be published as blogposts in the coming months.

The result of this collaboration for us have been:

  • Access to a database of all official documents on EU-ACP exchanges
  • A solid overview of alternative data sources/interview contacts for the next step of the project
  • Increased familiarity with advanced text analysis

Due to the pandemic and the inability to pursue fieldwork or organize large events, the final steps envisaged as part of the traineeship (drafting of a joint study and organizing a conference on the renegotiation of the Cotonou Agreement) had to be postponed until the circumstances allow for it.

Research Trainees: Alba de Ridder (Research Master Assyriology) and Laura Dees (Research Master Linguistics)
Supervisors: Caroline Waerzeggers (LIAS), Melanie Gross (LIAS), Alwin Kloekhorst (LUCL), Margaretha Folmer (LUCL/LIAS)

Description and aims

The story in Genesis about the confusion of tongues offers a famous literary reflection on Babylon’s multilingual society. It is less well-known that a large historical dataset survives that enables us to study the languages that were spoken in Babylon at the time when the Judeans experienced this multi-ethnic society. This dataset derives from cuneiform tablets written in the 6th—5th centuries BCE and is currently collected in the open access prosopographical database Prosobab (https://prosobab.leidenuniv.nl/) which forms part of the ERC project “Persia and Babylonia” at Leiden University.

Albeit recorded in Babylonian (and therefore in essence monolingual), these texts contain the names of thousands of individuals, many linguistically non-Babylonian. While not every person with a non-Babylonian name will have spoken the language represented by his or her name, there is a significant correlation between the linguistic affiliation of a name and the ethnic origins of its bearer.

 

The rich onomastic data from this corpus is sparsely studied so far. The research trainees Alba de Ridder and Laura Dees did not only contribute to the Prosobab database project by adding important data and creating a tutorial, but also conducted individual research on the basis of the data they gathered in the first place. Below you can read more about their tasks and output

Results

Alba de Ridder: During the "Confusion of Tongues" traineeship, I was tasked with tagging the languages of and providing translations for the names in the Prosobab database. In this way I learned about the languages which were spoken in 7th-4th centuries BCE Babylonia, including Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian), West-Semitic languages, Old Persian, Elamite and Greek. Since several of these languages were not part of the languages I studied in the Assyriology program at Leiden, I got insights into a more diverse set of languages. It also made me pay close attention to personal names and their translation, something that I had not done before in the program either. Knowing how to translate names is a skill that will no doubt be useful for my future in Assyriology. Since I made the language tags and translations freely available on the Prosobab website, my expertise can be passed on to, and used by, other people. I also studied how to map change in the percentage of names in certain languages over time. The results of this study are about to published as a blogpost on the Persia & Babylonian online outreach platform “Archives in context”.

Laura Dees: During my research traineeship for the project “Confusion of Tongues”, I fulfilled several tasks for the Prosobab database. Most importantly, I entered several texts on the Carian ethnic groups in Babylonia and tagged Carian names. Furthermore, I added translations for Old Persian names. In the future, this will hopefully allow researchers to investigate this material more easily. Next to this, I designed my own research project on the linguistic origins of personal names of the Caro-Egyptians in Babylonia in the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods and about the question what the origins of these names may tell us about the social status of this ethnic group. It required a combination of comparative linguistic, onomastic and prosopographical research. It was nice to see that these three methods could complement each other. The results of this research are planned to be published as a short article in the professional journal N.A.B.U. (https://sepoa.fr/?page_id=14) .

List of output of the two research trainees:

  • putting language tags on personal names in Prosobab (Alba de Ridder, but also Laura Dees)
  • adding translations to personal names in Prosobab (Alba de Ridder, but also Laura Dees)
  • entering cuneiform texts relating to Carians in Babylonia in Prosobab (Laura Dees)
  • creating tutorial video on Onomastics search function of Prosobab (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KOppFlWuEA&feature=emb_logo) (Alba de Ridder and Laura Dees)
  • presentation of individual research on name material in the course of an internal online meeting (Alba de Ridder and Laura Dees)
  • forthcoming: blog post on “Archives in context” (https://persiababylonia.org/archives/) (Alba de Ridder)
  • forthcoming: article in the professional journal N.A.B.U. (https://sepoa.fr/?page_id=14 ) (Laura Dees)
  • abstract for conference “Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale” (RAI) in Mainz and Frankfurt (Alba de Ridder and Laura Dees)

Since the RAI in Mainz and Frankfurt did not take place this year due to Covid-19, the poster has neither been prepared nor presented. Instead Alba de Ridder and Laura Dees are about to make their research results public in a blog post and a short article respectively.

Budget

The material budget was used for a technical expansion of the Prosobab database in order to facilitate the onomastic research by the Trainees and make it available to users around the world.

Students: Suze Geuke, Guus van der Peet
Supervisors: Roosmaryn Pilgram, Geert Warnar

In this traineeship, we investigated the mechanisms in dialogues that make them effective in reaching a common objective, comparing contemporary medical consultations with medieval and early modern consolatory dialogues. We combined linguistic and literary approaches with the aim to see whether this multidisciplinary approach to conversation might attribute new findings from a humanities perspective to the existing research on medical dialogues and Shared Decision Making (SDM).

 

Our conclusions include that the more explicit common ground (e.g. conversational roles) is established, the more beneficial it is for reaching the common objective. Cooperative language use and participation from both parties, in terms of making commitments and attributing to the argumentation for the solution, is favoured. Moreover, the SDM framework proves to be insightful when investigating both medical consults and consolatory dialogues. Though, when examining the SDM in dialogues, it is important to distinguish between the form and content of utterances. For example, a conversation may superficially seem to adhere to SDM, but only on the level of form and not in intention and result.

We presented our findings to the Dialogic Network and other interested parties in a hybrid online-offline seminar on September 25th. Our presentation was concluded by Evi Dalmaijer, who provided some more information on SDM from a discourse studies point of view and lead the discussion on how to measure SDM. https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/events/2020/09/the-mechanisms-of-dialogue-in-health-communication

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