“Eurotales and the Diffuseum”. 8th Garage International Conference: Utopias of (Non)Knowledge: The Museum as a Research Hub. 24th – 25th September 2021.

Sönmez M. J. M.

Presentation, pp.20-21, 2021

  • Publication Type: Other Publication / Presentation
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Page Numbers: pp.20-21


Nadia Cannata, Maia Wellington Gahtan

and Margaret J.-M. Sönmez

Eurotales and the Diffuseum

In our paper we present the Diffuseum, a project within Eurotales: A Museum of the Voices of Europe that combines linguistic research with digital representation and

a physical museo diffuso.

The Diffuseum is based on language traces diffused throughout a borderless European territory. A language trace is any monument, place, object, wall, corner, urban space, painting, inscription, graffito or other element in the public domain that testifies to the life of languages, linguistic varieties, traditions, events or anything remarkable that may serve to retrace the history of language cultures. Fragmentary and often indexical, language traces resonate with the memory of languages and illustrate both the archaeology of language and the deep and layered relationship between tangible objects and their intangible significance—they represent, in essence, the linguistic dimension of place and material culture. Constituting a kind of living museum, these traces form a major component of the Diffuseum, which embraces a website, database, map, timeline, and field app.

Through the Diffuseum, we expect to:

1) develop a better understanding of how the linguistic cultures interact with each other over time and within space, and even within the same individual. In contrast to traditional studies of single language groups, the Diffuseum offers a detailed representation of linguistic cultures in disparate communities across large geographies. The collection will also allow for written and oral examples to be studied together. In the case of much recent informal graffiti, traces also serve as unique documentation;

2) illustrate the deep ways in which language is embedded in physical places and monuments whether it be through inscriptions or oral/literary traditions attached to those sites. The vehicle of language traces promises to enhance the precision of our understanding of languages by identifying and analyzing their material contexts, thereby encouraging the collaboration of art historians, cultural anthropologists, and linguists;

3) engage and elicit excitement about linguistic sites and cultures in those who inhabit our borderless territory through an interactive field app, which, through GPS technology, alerts potential viewers to the whereabouts of all traces when they

happen to be nearby. The app provides both a window on the world of traces and an invitation to dialogue. In the course of discussing the Diffuseum we will also address meta-museological issues, including the difficulties of engaging in both research and museum activism while maintaining a dynamic nonhierarchical and non-linear approach to a uniquely evanescent subject matter.

Nadia Cannata is a professor at the University of Sapienza of Rome, co-director of Eurotales: A Museum of the Voices of Europe and Diffuseum. As a researcher, she is currently focusing on Medieval epigraphy and early Medieval vernaculars.

Maia Wellington Gahtan is a professor at the University of Kent (UK), co-director of Eurotales: A Museum of the Voices of Europe and Diffuseum. She concentrates, in general, on the interplay between intellectual/cultural history and representational art.

Margaret J.-M. Sönmez is a professor at the Middle East Technical University (Ankara), co-director of Eurotales: A Museum of the Voices of Europe and Diffuseum.   Her research is dedicated to language variation, change, and meanings across multiple text types and genres.