These seminars will address the challenges of historical research on popular media and performance culture. Due to their ephemeral nature, these practices left limited remains and their archival scope is often incomplete and biased. The sessions will introduce and discuss alternative sources and methods, such as oral, visual, and material sources, as well as concepts like enchantment, the popular, and counter-archive as complementary tools for the analysis of media and performance histories. 

How to piece together a coherent historical narrative based on very limited and highly fragmented sources? How to deal with historical characters who did a great deal of self-staging? How to mediate voices that are not represented in the archive or have been silenced in the past? Can we rely on oral sources, and how do we decipher the narratives that individuals weave about themselves, their performances, and exhibitions? What role do objects and artifacts play in historical analysis, and how can we make sense of their performative impact? 

These questions and similar lines of inquiry will be introduced by academic and artistic researchers who have been working on (or with) incomplete archival sources and histories.


11 Dec. 2023
Oral History in Circus and Fairground CommunitiesVeronika Barnaš (University of of Arts and Design Linz) & Véronique Faber (University of Luxembourg) + film screening @De Cinema
15 Jan. 2024
12 Feb. 2024
11 Mar. 2024
6 May 2024
23 Sep. 2024
Audio-visual Sources as Counter-archivesIlaria Lupo (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp & ARIA)
14 Oct. 2024
In-between Imagination and Politics: Writing the History of Circus — Franziska Trapp (Université libre de Bruxelles) & Gwendolien Sabbe
18 Nov. 2024
Singing the Silences — Hoda Siahtiri (Sint-Lucas Antwerp & ARIA)
16 Dec. 2024

Aim & format

This series of seminars will enable junior academic and artistic researchers to become acquainted with a variety of concepts, methods, and approaches in the fields of historiography, performance studies, media archaeology and cultural theory and to enter into dialogue with a number of specialists in those respective fields. Sessions are meant to be informal in nature and will consist of (1) a presentation by the invited speaker and (2) a discussion based on a set of texts that will be made available to read beforehand. In addition, (3) participants will be invited to think about the ways in which the discussed material might be relevant to their own projects.  

Unless communicated otherwise, these sessions will all take place from 2.30-5pm in the ARIA meeting room (S.S209), Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp.

You can sign up for one session or the entire series by sending a message to Please mention your current project and briefly describe why you are interested in attending the seminar(s).

This series is organized in the framework of Science at the Fair: Performing Knowledge and Technology in Western Europe, 1850-1914 (, a five-year research project coordinated by Nele Wynants, funded by the European Research Council (ERC).