Teaching contemporary history and music with Spotify

For my new BA course on music and contemporary history I use Spotify for (collaborative) playlists. We started with an introduction on musicology, (global) music history and how historians have engaged and engage with music, followed by two contextual classes on functions, technologies and categorisations of music. In the remaining classes we will talk about intersections with politics, nationalism and nation building, class, youth culture, (post-)colonialism, migration, religion and gender.

I am very very happy to return to music & history since my MA thesis on Jewish instrumental music in the 1990s (‘klezmer’ nowadays) and I am educating myself as much as the students.

In addition to reading and listening, part of the (group) work for students will be to create and curate their own playlists about the main themes (I am aware of much of the valid criticism of Spotify from an artist point of view, but as a teaching tool it adds a dimension that would be difficult to add otherwise).


Edit 30 May 2021: the weekly classes have now ended, below is the complete set of playlists that we created during the course:


Music & History 1 - Introduction:

My playlist for the introductory class is intended to illustrate some of the big themes we will discuss in the course of the seminar. They relate to both the contextual topics (functions, technologies, categorisations) and the themes outlined above.

... continue reading ...

International Conference #DHJewish - Jewish Studies in the Digital Age

The international virtual conference #DHJewish - Jewish Studies in the Digital Age took place between 11-14 January 2021 and brought together more than sixty scholars and heritage practitioners to discuss how the digital turn affects the field of Jewish Studies.

The conference is part of a bigger project which includes an online portal, currently under development at the C²DH, which will offer a variety of different types of information on the intersection of Jewish Studies & Digital Humanities, including a news and events section, a registry of projects, blogs & forums, as well as a Zotero bibliography.

You can now visit the online archive of the conference here, including all abstracts and recordings, with lots of great talks and contributions to enjoy!

New article: The ‘Jewish Freedom Fighter’. The legacy of Naftali Botwin and the construction of a transnational cult of Jewish heroes

This article discusses the transnational heroic cult that developed in Yiddish communist circles around the figure of Naftali Botwin, a young Polish-Jewish communist who was executed by the Polish authorities in the city of Lwów following a trial in which he was accused of assassinating a police infiltrator in the ranks of the Polish Communist Party (KPP). The analysis brings out how Botwin’s legacy has been appropriated in multiple, and sometimes contradictory ways in the decades following his death, especially within the context of the creation of the Botwin Company in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. In so doing it will highlight the transnational nature of this cult as his memory lived on through the poems, plays and publications that circulated through the worldwide networks and communicative spaces of Jewish (leftist) émigrés.

The article can be found here and was published in the book: Le Culte des héros en Europe centrale 1880-1945 (Paris: Eur'Orbem Éditions, 2019).

Interview with Elena Hoffenberg about digital research in Yiddish

In October 2019 I had an interview with Elena Hoffenberg for In Geveb, the online journal for Yiddish Studies.

Below is the brief introduction, you can read the whole interview here.

"It seemed fitting to break away from a conference bringing together American and European scholars and researchers working on digital humanities for an old-fashioned face-to-face conversation about Yiddish. During a conference on Digital Hermeneutics at the German Heritage Institute in Washington, DC, I sat down to talk with Gerben Zaagsma, who is an assistant professor at the Centre for Contemporary and Digital History at the University of Luxembourg. In addition to being the author of the book Jewish Volunteers, the International Brigades and the Spanish Civil War (2017), Zaagsma is the curator of the invaluable online collection of links to all things Yiddish, yiddish-sources.com.

Opening remarks: From Tablet to Tablet – workshop Jewish Studies & Digital Humanities, Hamburg, 4-6 September 2017

*** This is the written version of opening remarks I gave at From Tablet to Tablet, a workshop on Jewish Studies and Digital Humanities supported by the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe in co-operation with the Institute for the History of the German Jews that took place in Hamburg between 4-6 September 2017. Several introductiory blog posts and discussions with participants where posted on the Yerusha blog

My warmfelt thanks to Sinem Adar for comments on an earlier version. I have drawn in some parts upon an earlier article On Digital History published in 2013 as part of a thematic issue of the BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review on digital history.

These remarks are intended as a discussion piece so feedback and comments are most welcome!


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