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Mothers and Fathers of the Nation - Investigating new methods of narration and presentation

Based on the findings from this project, the HRA invested in the evaluation, development and use of software like HeidIcon (t.l.), HyperImage (l.l.) and Atomic Wiki (r.).

In this Phase 1 project an interdisciplinary team of researchers and HRA members started to explore new ways of collaborative research and alternative digital means of presentation. The project experimented with the infrastructure that was already available and produced an "Online Exhibition" that focused on the depiction of Mothers and Fathers of the Nation in Europe, India and China. The presentation was realised in the Cluster's former Content Management System as part of the Cluster website. The images used in this presentation were collected, catalogued and organized in HeidIcon, the image database operated by the university library, open to University members. It provided a basic solution but did not meet some of the researchers’ more advanced requirements, e.g.  support for multilingual metadata and annotation features.

The digital outcome in its original form as part of the website no longer exists, since the Cluster website was moved to another system. While design, concept and underlying technology of the outcome have changed, the content of the online exhibition has been transferred and preserved as a HyperImage project (login required).

Important findings

The project instigated a series of software developments in Phase 2. The conceptualisation and implementation of the image metadata editor Ziziphus and the investments in the image annotation platform HyperImage and the Atomic Wiki platform as new means of realizing visual essays have their origin in that process. Ultimately, for researchers and students at the Cluster/HCTS, this led to the exploration of new ways of non-linear narration and the re-thinking of traditional ways of linear writing. In several teaching activities that have been supported by the HRA researchers and students have taken the opportunity to test and evolve these new methods of scholarly narration and presentation.

New projects based on our findings and developments are already under way. Barbara Mittler is currently engaged in a collaborative project with historian Sumathi Ramaswamy (Duke), entitled “No Parallel? The Fatherly Bodies of Gandhi and Mao.” First conducted at the Stanford Humanities Center (with the support of a mobility grant from Heidelberg University) and now supported for another 5 years by Humboldt Foundation's Anneliese-Maier-Preis, this project questions how these two “peasant nationalists” have been transformed into hyper-visible “bio-icons” (Ghosh 2011). Tracing the role of image and media practices both in the life times of these two men as well as posthumously, in manufacturing their charismatic a/effect, within their own constituencies and beyond, this project considers how critical images and signature events have contributed to a complex interplay between the iconization and the demonization of these two men.