The birth of something new…

Over the past months and years, friends and colleagues have asked me: “Fabio, why don’t you create your own blog?”. And now I have.

Note: I wrote this blog post when I had just created my first blog, writinginpasttense.wordpress.org, back in December 2017. Reading the post two and a half years later, I realized that my views have not changed much since then, maybe some have even become stronger.

In fact, I had a homepage once – this must have been around ten years ago. I called it “odds-and-ends” (I still like the expression). It was at a time when social media were much less used than today, and I communicated with my friends not over Facebook, but over MSN Messenger (I remember that in Germany ICQ was quite popular, in other countries it was Yahoo Messenger). But at some point, I stopped using the homepage and adding content, and it was obviously rather meant as a pastime and to introduce myself. I have no clue if it still exists: I myself did not delete it. And it cannot be found by googling it.

For a very long time, I was quite reluctant to create my own blog or something similar again. I felt not ready or had not the impression that I would have enough to write, reflect on and say for filling a whole blog. But the advantage of a blog is that you don’t need to write every day or every week. Only when you feel inspired to, and have some ideas to share. It’s not a newspaper.

It turned out that, since I have been doing my PhD, I have produced a series of posts mainly for the C2DH in which I’m working (I strongly recommend you to visit the page of the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary History – a lot of my colleagues have published interesting and thoughtful articles there which I can highly recommend). But I have also published articles elsewhere – and I am grateful for these opportunities. I could participate in disseminating knowledge and research to a larger public, and not only keep it to myself within the four academic walls.

Until now, I have uploaded most of my texts on Academia, but I will try to find a possibility so that they can also be downloaded and accessed here. I felt the necessity to keep everything I have produced so far in one place, to have my own personal place. But I also had a strong wish to share what I’m working on, my own research on the history of cultural policy in Luxembourg. I also would like to enable my readers and visitors the possibility to comment and to discuss. Maybe even share some anecdotes?

I’m convinced that a historian nowadays needs to share his/her research, but should also not be afraid to point out issues and problems he/she is confronted with. We cannot only focus on success, we need to record our failures, too. And we need to move away from a focus on output – a neoliberal fetish that has been expanding in the philosophies of too many universities. We should look for other ways of producing and valuing research. Our societies and economies have become obsessed with numbers and quantification. I haven’t published a paper yet, but in academia, it often seems, work is only valued by the number of citations; by the number of articles published in international journals. And the latter often belong to publishing houses asking ridiculous high fees.1https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/22/academic-publishing-monopoly-challenged. Though this article has been published in 2012, the situation hasn’t changed much since then. Fortunately, many academics are criticizing these practices. A growing number of initiatives take a different approach, such as open access journals, as a reaction to this evolution. And I hope there will be more.

A friend recently told me that scientists should constantly question themselves, their research, their theories. Or else, they would not be good scientists and should rather do something else. I think this friend of mine has a point. Historians, as many other scientists, have the important duty to teach critical thinking. This becomes even more urgent in the times we’re living now. We become overwhelmed by news and information, but we often lack the time, tools and skills to really discern wrong information from good information. The label “fake news” is constantly used by people who disseminate fake news themselves. The boundaries become blurry and we are caught by uncertainties as to what we can still believe.

I don’t know if, in the end, I can make my contribution to critical (self-)reflection and sharing knowledge. This blog is one first small and humble step. I have added the blog posts I have written so far – I warmly invite you to take a look at them. I also plan to add a category in which I specifically discuss and talk about my research, to share from time to time on what I’m working on, the progress and the evolution of my research. So I hope I can fill this blog with even more content and thoughts.

It is still in it’s early stages, but let’s see how my small project will work out!

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