Women murdered by (ex)partners: some figures

Last week, Zeit Online made available an extended report by the title Frauenmorde: Von ihren Männern getötet (Murdered women: killed by their men). While addressing the situation in Germany – yet not without some international comparisons – the article, and its alarmingly telling data (see following graph: “Number of people murdered by their (ex)-partner in Germany”), mostly resonated with recent news from Spain.

Only some ten days before Zeit‘s report was published, and right on the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, an extreme-right party in Madrid had refused to endorse a declaration on violence against women with the (predictably, ludicrous) argument that «There are also men who suffer violence from women and are killed by their wives» (source: The Guardian; see also El Pais report of the debate). In 2017, in Spain, there were 131 female and 17 male victims dying at the hands of their (ex)partner (source: Colectivo Profesional de Policía Municipal/Professional Group of the Municipal Police).

Made curious about the situation of both my Country of birth and the one where I live, I embarked in a quick search of the Italian and Dutch cases. Data from both Countries for 2017 basically confirm the German and Spanish statistics. In The Netherlands, 5 men (out of a total of 112 murders; 4,6%) and 18 women (out of 46; 39,1%) were killed by their (ex)partners (source, in Dutch only: CBS Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek/Statistics Netherlands). In the same year in Italy, 8 men (out of a total of 234 murders; 3,4%) and 54 women (out of 123; 43,9%) died at the hands of their (ex)partners (full report and data, in Italian: ISTAT Istituto Centrale di Statistica; summary, in English).

In times of roaring post-truth discourse (and therefore of fake news), it is hard to underestimate the importance that statistics can have for discussing social issues in a well-reasoned manner rather than out of an emotionally driven (aggressive) mood, mainly if not exclusively aimed – as Marc Bloch had already written in 1921 – at expressing «prejudices, hatreds, fears». Therefore, the video ‘On an average day’, made in 2017 by the above mentioned Statistics Netherlands, looks like a suited closing note for the present post.

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Computational Communication Research: a new OA-journal

Founded from the Computational Methods Interest Group at the ICA International Communication Association and published by the Amsterdam University Press, Computational Communication Research is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal «that encourages and facilitates the sharing of 1) developments in computational tools and methods, and 2) the application of computational methods to answer theoretical questions about (human) communication».

Lead by Wouter van Atteveldt – Associate professor of political communication at the Amsterdam Free University – the journal’s editorial team counts among its members also two UvA-researchers: Damian Trilling – Assistant professor for political communication and journalism – and Rens Vliegenthart, Professor in Communication Science.

While the journal has been added to the UvA Library CataloguePlus, and will also be registered at the open access journals browser available at Open access.nl, access to its content is free to everyone.

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Fake news: a video from the UvA Library

The UvA Library has made a video on fake news, available both in English (see below) and in Dutch. More on the video – and on the topic – can be found at the History & American Studies Library blog.

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Fake news in historical perspective: an article by Marc Bloch

Last week, while reading Francesco Filippi’s Mussolini ha fatto anche cose buone: le idiozie che continuano a circolare sul fascismo (Mussolini also did some good things: the idiocies that keep going around about fascism), I came across a reference to the Réflexions d’un historien sur les fausses nouvelles de la guerre, by French historian Marc Bloch, a name earlier mentioned on this blog with regard to his landmark book Apologie pour l’histoire: ou métier d’historien (written in 1941, first published in French in 1949; English translation as The historian’s craft, Manchester University Press, 1954).
Photo from the website of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Published in 1921 in the Revue de synthèse historique, Bloch’s article (translated as Reflections of a Historian on the False News of the War in the Michigan War Studies Review) gave the French historian an opportunity to go back to his own First World War experiences also through the lens of some works, then recently published, which had addressed the issue of false news at times of war (Lucien Graux, one of the authors discussed by Bloch, will – like the historian himself – be murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War: both men had become members of the French Resistance, and Bloch was also of Jewish descent).

The whole article makes for great reading, and among the many exemplary passages are those discussing Germans’ fears and (as a consequence) false reporting on Belgian snipers, or Bloch’s own memories of a German POW whose city of residence got deformed – by the multiple accounts of the soldier’s capture by the French – from the original Hanseatic town of Bremen into the frontline French village of Braisne, therefore transforming an ordinary private into a spy (with fifth column’s rumours always convenient to the military propaganda machine).

What mostly captured my attention, though, are two more general – one would almost say, methodological – observations (see quotes below) made by Bloch in his article, and grounded in his own research about false news (or legends) in the European Middle Ages, such as those described in his book (1924) Les rois thaumaturges: Étude sur le caractère surnaturel attribué a la puissance royale particulièrement en France et en Angleterre (English translation The royal touch: Sacred monarchy and scrofula in England and France, Routledge, 1973).

«False news is probably born of imprecise individual observations or imperfect eyewitness accounts, but the original accident is not everything: by itself, it really explains nothing. The error propagates itself, grows, and ultimately survives only on one condition—that it finds a favorable cultural broth in the society where it is spreading. Through it, people unconsciously express all their prejudices, hatreds, fears, all their strong emotions. Only great collective states of mind — I will have occasion to return to this later — have the power to transform a misperception into a legend»

«Finally, add to these minds susceptible to unconscious recall a mass of old literary motifs, the ones that the basically impoverished human imagination has always nourished from the dawn of time — stories of acts of treason, of poisonings, of mutilations, of women gouging out the eyes of wounded warriors — of which bards and troubadours used to sing and which serials and movies popularize today. Such are the emotional states and the intellectual representations that prepare the way for the formation of legend. Such is the traditional material that provides the legend its elements» (pp. 3, 7-8 of the English tranlsation).

Bolds in the quotes are mine and aimed at the inspirational – or rather, distressing – similarities between the time of First World War and now. Then, as now, false news need(ed) a “favorable cultural broth” to appeal people’s “prejudices, hatreds, fears and strong emotions”. While present-day social media – far beyond the role played by traditional mass media – have helped making of each and every individual with an internet connection a potential “troubadour”, a creator or (distorted) amplifier of those motifs «that the basically impoverished human imagination has always nourished from the dawn of time».

Marc Bloch’s photo from the Smithsonian Magazine‘s article History heroes: Marc Bloch.

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Summer breaks for the social science librarians

The social science librarians will be on their summer breaks:

  • Bjorn Witlox (political science): 6 July – 22 July
  • Janneke Staaks (anthropology, psychology, child development and education): 29 July – 19 August
  • Judith Opitz (human geography, planning and international development): 29 July – 19 August
  • Stefano Giani (sociology and communication science): 5 August – 23 August


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No land for love: IHLIA photo exhibition about LGBTQ+ asylum seekers

Open from April 19th to June 8th at IHLIA’s (International Homo/Lesbian Information center and Archive) – on the third floor of Amsterdam Central LibraryNo land for love features black and white portraits by French photographer Jean-Christophe Husson, who introduces his work for the exhibition as follows: «We aim to set off a dialogue, to break stereotypes, to address societal questions with a visual vocabulary different from that usually featured by the mainstream media. Our wish is to create a conversation between LGBTQ+ refugees, asylum seekers, and the public. These women and men had to flee their countries, facing a violent discrimination that started within their own families. They were sometimes forced into marriage or raped by a close relative, forced to leave their houses, their town, finally their country, and often their children. Frequently, they had to escape from human trafficking. We met many men and women from Syria, Libya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Morocco. We were deeply touched by their stories and amazed by their energy, dreams, and goals for the future».

Opening Thursday 19th at 17.30. Entrance free, no registration required.

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How to deal with Anglo Saxon Author Bias in your search results?

I recently did a workshop with social science master students, and one of the attendants posed an excellent question;

How do you deal with the bias in the literature of Anglo-Saxon authors?

The short answer is; this takes effort. The databases that we use, tend to be created by Anglo Saxon companies or institutions, and a search engine like google scholar will rank articles higher if they are highly cited and are published in a journal with an impact factor.

The longer answer depends on what you’re interested in. Are you looking for French, German or Spanish literature? Or will you be doing field work abroad? And what happens when you’re not (yet) fluent in a language? How do you go about finding English literature from local researchers if they are not highly cited (and how would you know)? The list below is the result of what we came up with (if you’re one of students, thank you).

How to deal with the Anglo-Saxon bias?

  • Search in other languages in Google Scholar. Yes trivial. But useful nonetheless.
  • Some databases are less US or UK centered (probably still very western); e.g. Anthropology Plus, LLBA and Scopus.
  • From the Web of Science interface, you can also find other databases (Click on the drop down menu behind ‘select a database in web of science’). They offer:
    • SciELO
    • the Korean Journal Database
    • the Russian citation index
      The extra advantage of using the access through web of science instead of the publicly available versions, is that you can use the wildcards (* and “”) like you would in Web of Science, and you can use the adjacency operator for word distance (e.g. social NEAR/2 capital to find articles where social has a maximum word distance of 2 words from capital)
  • Databases in Spanish: SciELO (multi-disciplinairy), LILACS (health), and Hispanic American Periodicals Index (HAPI)
  • The collection from the Centro de Estudios y Documentación Latino Americanos, better known as CEDLA can be accessed through the UvA library Catalogue. Their library is currently located on the Roeterseiland campus
  • The library of the Africa Studies Centre in Leiden offers a nice overview of Search Tools for Africa
  • Try to find a dedicated library like the Africa Studies Centre and check out their website for relevant resources. When in doubt, ask their librarian, most of us are willing to help
  • If you don’t speak the language, but are interested in what local researchers have published, you can use the author’s affiliation information in your search. Several databases offer this option (check their multi-field/advanced search option), and especially Web of Science and Scopus are good at this.
    • Take spelling variations into account
    • Once you’ve found a few articles, switch to Google Scholar and try citation tracking. Chances are that local researchers also cite each other.

Example Scopus

Example Web of ScienceScreenshotWebofScience

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