Louisa Niesen is a PhD candidate at the European University Institute in Florence
The Master's programme Cultural History of Modern Europe (now Cultural History and Heritage) gave me the opportunity to dive into all the historical topics that fascinate me but were rarely part of my Bachelor's degree in history and politics. Instead of covering political history and 'great men', I was able to focus more on 'common people' and questions of gender in my seminar papers, and on the multiple facets of 'culture': from traces of post-colonial memory in a TV lottery, to memory conflicts in urban planning, to the construction of the 'hysterical' woman in the 19th century.
While the Master's programme is certainly challenging, I was able to deepen my methodological and theoretical knowledge to an extent that I hardly thought possible for such a short time. This is also reflected in my master’s thesis: applying Weberian and Foucauldian theory as well as social and cultural anthropological methods, I examined female employees’ practices and experiences of modernity in the Weimar Republic. For all my assignments, I drew on source types that were less covered in my Bachelor’s degree, including diaries, advertisements, and pop songs.
My positive experience was largely due to the in-depth seminars taught by dedicated lecturers, who made the Master's interesting and accessible despite the Corona requirements, and with whom there was eye-level interaction and communication. Especially the discussions with my thesis supervisor were very helpful and led to many precious new ideas.
I also particularly liked the fact that an internship was part of the Master's degree. As I am especially interested in the communication of history and the work of museums, I did my internship at an exhibition agency. I not only learned how to design exhibition concepts and write semantically optimised texts, but also how to apply for tenders. The 'Public History' course provided me with valuable theoretical background knowledge.
Today I am a PhD student at the European University Institute in Florence, for which the Master's programme Cultural History of Modern Europe prepared me very well.
Bram Hilkens is a former student
“Should you ever be mad enough to consider entering an Ivy League university through hiphop, be prepared to repeatedly answer a few questions:
‘Is there such a thing as a hiphop archive?’
‘Harvard has it?!’
‘Hiphop is that thing with the quick talking fellas, right?’
"These questions invite easy responses – ‘yes’, ‘yes’, ‘yes’ – but are moreover merely a slightly inconvenient side effect to a beautiful experience. I know this, because I interned as a Research Assistent at the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute (HARI) at Harvard University. This is also where I wrote my thesis on representations of Kendrick Lamar and its implications for the transnational perception of hiphop culture.
HARI was founded by professor Marcyliena Morgan in 2002, she decided it was time to understand hiphop as more than a temporary subculture expressed by angry, aggressive, hedonistic, criminal, lewd men. Hiphop as a movement grew out of a minority position, often subjected to severe criticism based on stereotypes and racism, penetrating popular culture at large. The line between hiphop and pop/youth culture has been effectively blurred. So, how do we research hiphop? We measure its potential and we challenge its public perceptions. We try to gauge what hiphop culture expresses in lyrics, samples, dance, graffiti, fashion, etc. I hardly thought of the nuances, idiosyncrasies, or scope of hiphop culture before my internship – and I considered myself a connoisseur.
HARI provided me with an opportunity to academically engage with something I am passionate about. In the process, I got to meet a ton of interesting people with interesting views on hiphop culture, music, art, politics, you name it. It gave me a chance to temporarily participate in one of the world’s top universities, which is simultaneously an elitist, absurd, isolated, educative, and absolutely wonderful experience. So to anyone who asks you: ‘What will cultural history get you?’ It will get you to Harvard. It will make you find yourself conceptualizing and understanding the things you love the most. It allows you to make your own plan and develop your own skills. Cultural history is everywhere you decide to uncover it. So why not apply it to your passion?”
Silvia van Bergeijk is a former student
“What interested me the most about the internship at the Wende Museum in Los Angeles, was the cultural and the geographic distance. I thought it would bring me another perspective on (cultural) history. On a Dutch University the way they teach you history is often from a Eurocentric point of view, and I also had a Eurocentric view on the world. The internship at the museum really changed my point of view on historical artefacts and also on (cultural) history in general."
"In the museum my main job was being a curatorial intern. I was assisting the chief curator of the museum with preparing exhibitions and lectures. For the preparing of an exhibition I had to connect objects to tell a historical story. In this sense my work as a future cultural historian was very practical with selecting and handling historical objects. Also the stories behind the objects gave me a broader view on the history of the Soviet Union states during the Cold War. In this sense I learned more about the citizens of the Soviet Union, because also everyday objects were available and presented in the archive. This made the past and the people in the past more tangible, because the material was used by the people.
During my internship I worked four days a week in the museum, so I also had time to experience the city of Los Angeles a little bit more. Except from the nice weather and the beautiful beaches, Los Angeles has a lot of nice other museums to offer. Especially nice modern art museums. It is interesting to see that in the Netherlands, and I think in whole Europe the focus is more on historical museums, but in Los Angeles the focus is more on modern art museums. This says a lot about the cultural differences in the world and gave me an interesting view on the diversity and focus on museums around the world.
I am really grateful for this experience and it did change my view on history and also on culture in general. The internship really gave me the opportunity to experience some practical skills as a historian, but it also changed my view on history, in a more multi-prospective way.”
Celine Frohn is a PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield
"What makes the Master’s programme Cultural History of Modern Europe special is that it brings together teachers and students with very diverse research interests. Cultural history as a field of research is still very broad, and I felt like there was plenty of room to carve out your own path within the programme based on your personal interests. Because everyone has a different background (ranging from history to philosophy to American studies) class discussions are more engaging; and as groups are relatively small, I feel like the space created to exchange ideas is one of the strengths of the Master’s programme."
"The knowledge and skills I’ve acquired are definitely useful in my professional life. Thinking critically and approaching a problem from different viewpoints is invaluable and useful in any career. What helps me especially in my academic career is the solid theoretical background that the Cultural History Master’s programme provided. Research never fully ‘clicked’ for me until the first few courses of the Master’s, which concentrated on theory. It was as if I had never truly understood what I was doing before then.
Since I graduated I have been mainly focused on finding a PhD position. Entry into PhD programmes at the moment is highly competitive, so it took me about half a year to find one. Luckily, I have been accepted into a PhD programme in English Literature at the University of Sheffield, which is scheduled to start in October 2017. Currently, I am mainly concentrating on expanding my academic resume. I went on a week-long ‘scientific mission’ to Oxford University to contribute to a research project on early modern letter exchanges, presented a paper on body history at a conference, and did an internship as research assistant at a Dutch heritage institution. In the future I hope to complete a doctorate and become a literary historian, working either at a research institute or a university."