Foundation for Austrian Studies
Every year one of the Austria Centers organizes a convention dedicated to the research of Austrian Studies. During these conventions, researchers and (PhD) students get the chance to present their projects to their peers. Below you will find the experiences and impressions of participants of past conventions.
XII Annual Convention, Austria Centers Edmonton, Calgary, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, 1-4 September 2019
Impressions by Oene de Haan - PhD candidate at Utrecht University:
‘The devil is in the detail’ is a famous quote, pointing to the fact that the difference between success or failure often depends on small, apparently negligible, objects, facts or occurrences. The details of and around the Annual Conference of the Austria Centers in Edmonton however reached near-perfection if not perfection.
It started with the seamless preparation of flight and hotel, to be followed by a well-organized conference at three different locations of which one on half a day travel distance. All necessary travels, transfers and subsequent returns and arrivals occurred almost unnoticed. And during the breaks and joint breakfasts, lunches and dinners, plenty of opportunity was created to meet the participants of the other Austria Centers.
This leads to the next, of course more valuable, detail of this conference, being the opportunity of meeting various directors and researchers of the various Austria Centers in cities like Vienna, Budapest, Olomouc, Jerusalem, Edmonton, Minnesota, Berkeley or New Orleans. Not to mention the rich details in their presentations on a wide variety of topics. The topics ranged from early modern funeral Czech culture or Hungarian witch trials via the development of the Slovene language or German-Moravian authors to deportation of ethnic German civilians from Hungary into the Sovjet-Union in 1944/1945, the position of gay women in the former German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany till current developments in Hungary under the Orbán-government or the relationship between the FPÖ and Israel – just only to mention a few.
Finally not to forget the last detail - but for me a milestone - being the opportunity to present for the first time my own research project. As PhD-candidate Political History at Utrecht University, I started two years ago my research into the implementation of reforms at the local level in Habsburg-Austria, Bavaria and Prussia in the decades around 1800. On such reforms a rich historiography exists on the influence on these reforms of the court or the development of a central royal bureaucracy. However, surprisingly little research seems to have been undertaken with respect to the implementation of such reforms on the ground in a district or local community. In the course of my research project I ‘discovered’ the Austria Center at Leiden University and benefitted of getting linked into this academic network.
But next to all these rich details including the feed-back on my own presentation, the conference also changed the way I consider or look at Habsburg-Austria. Until this conference the spatial and temporal aspects of the empire dominated my view. Alternatively formulated: what changed over time or during a certain timeframe in the empire and what caused and were the consequences of these changes. The conference learned me that I can also use Habsburg-Austria as lens or window to look at the various countries which succeeded the Habsburg-Austrian empire or even to historical topics in general.
10th Anniversary Convention of the Centre of Austrian Studies in November 2016 in Jerusalem
Impressions by Martin Küster, Master of Arts.
June 2016 I graduated in the ResMA programm Arts & Culture at Leiden University, specialising in the history of collections. I wrote my thesis on the role of royal collections and chambers of curiosities in economic education in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Building on that theme I worked on a PhD proposal which focusses on royal collections as representations of the state economy. They even served to stimulate innovations and economic growth.
My tutor dr. Marika Keblusek (Leiden University) introduced me to attended Prof. Jeroen Duindam, professor in early modern history at the Leiden University. After a first meeting Prof. Duindam invited me to participate in the 10th Anniversary Convention of the Centre of Austrian Studies in November 2016 in Jerusalem.
I was quite excited to attend this congress, because it gave me the opportunity to present my PhD proposal to a totally unknown, international audience of professors and students of different academic backgrounds in order to get a fresh and critical view on my subject matter.
On our arrival, during an informal dinner, we were given the opportunity to get acquainted with the other participants. The following days we had intensive sessions of presentations on a great variety of subjects, reaching back to Renaissance books and academic networks, up to twentieth century political British history as well as literature and media statistics. I found it quite a challenge to respond to the presentations of other fields of expertise than my own. Nevertheless, I learned a lot from the other participants, especially about the way they had structured their PhD proposals and how they dealt with the ‘weak’ links of their research. My presentation went very well. In particular Prof. Josef Patrouch, University of Alberta, and Prof. Howard Louthan, University of Minnesota showed their critical view and input, for which I am very grateful. I experienced our conversations during the breaks as very valuable and inspiring, as professor Louthan refered to a collection in the province of Hessen/Germany unknown to me then, which I can know use as a case study for my PhD thesis. Both, Professor Patrouch and professor Louthan really showed interest in my subject and offered their help in the future. Professor Louthan asked me to study with him in the US. This is of course a great opportunity, but without substantial funds it is not possible for me.
Beside the hard work during the presentation sessions, we enjoyed several excursions to the surroundings of Jerusalem: Massada, bathing in the Dead See and the amazing historical city centre of Jerusalem. Our stay in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University was perfectly organised by Elisheva Moatti and prof. Noam Shoval. They were great hosts and made our stay an unforgettable experience. Back in Rotterdam, I submitted my article by the end of January as required. I am looking forward to my first publication.
I would like to express my special thanks to professor Duindam and the Austrian Ministry of Education and Science for giving me the opportunity to make my first steps in the academic world.
VIII Annual Convention, Austria Center Olomouc, Czech Republic, 2015.
Impressions by Quinten Somsen – PhD Student at Leiden University. Project: Monarchy in Turmoil. Rulers, Courts and Politics in The Netherlands and Germany, C.1780 – C.1820.
As a research master student in Leiden, I had the opportunity to participate in the annual convention of the Austrian and Central European Centres of 2015, which took place in Olomouc in the Czech Republic. The annual convention is a getting together of the eight centres from: Vienna, Budapest, Olomouc, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Edmonton, Jerusalem, and Leiden that are dedicated to the study of Central European history, culture, and politics. It is a huge initiative supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Research, which brings together a versatile group of international scholars and student. The papers presented in Olomouc dealt with a diverse range of topics: Austrian Immigrant communities in the United States, the visual legacy of Austria’s Anschluss in 1938, contemporary party politics in the Czech Republic, the work of Max Zweig, and much more. The convention is a valuable opportunity for young research master- and PhD-students to gain experience in presenting their research for an international academic audience and get constructive feedback from specialists in the field.
For me personally, the convention was an important first step in an international academic environment and I would recommend it to all students with research ambitions. My topic fitted within the purview of the Central European Centres and the convention enabled me to meet historians with similar interests. The history of the Holy Roman Empire – my field of interest – is rarely discussed among Dutch scholars, but the historians I met in Olomouc showed great interest. The informal exchange during the convention turned out to be just as stimulating as the direct comments on my presentation and it strengthened my ambition to do further research. Moreover, I learned what it is to present and discuss my research for an international audience and it gave me the opportunity to publish my first article in the convention’s bundle. This experience, no doubt, played an important part in me getting my current PhD-position.