Karina Bénazech: “Each day was full of new discoveries.”

“Each day was full of new discoveries that all seemed very important to me.” That is how Karina Bénazech characterised the ReIReS DH Course last week organized by KU Leuven.

We interviewed Karina and this is what she says:

Who is Karina Bénazech?

“I am a Phd candidate in History and Sociology of Religions, and more particulary in History of protestantism, at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE-PSL) and the Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités (GSRL) – CNRS under the joint supervision of Patrick Cabanel, Directeur d’Études, EPHE-PSL and Prof. Peter Gray, Queen’s University Belfast. My research focuses on missions, religious conversion and national identity in 19th-century Ireland, but also more broadly on the interactions between religion, politics and national identity.

What is your field of interest?

The issue of conversion and the way it is often perceived as a threat to a commonly shared national culture, even in societies described as secularised, fascinates me.

It is a rich and vast field of research that encompasses history, sociology, and political sciences.  Therefore, beyond my PhD research, I am also very interested in current developments of these issues in contemporary societies, such as the increasing visibility of Islam in European countries and references to a Christian heritage in nationalist discourses.

What were your expectations of the DH Course?

I have identified several networks in my research, but have not yet benefitted from any DH training.

During this course, I expected to discover digital tools presented by scholars who have experienced them in similar fields of research.

KU Leuven seemed to be the most suited to provide useful and appropriate tools as I rely on archivial materials from various repositories of the Catholic Church and institutions, which proved to be right.

What is your main takeaway of the Course?

Each day was full of new discoveries that all seemed very important to me. If I had to choose two, I would cite Gephi and ODIS. Gephi, designed for sociological analysis, is a great open source program to analyse relations based on correspondence and organisation membership. The ODIS platform from the KADOC Documentation and Research Center of KU Leuven promises to be a relevant complementary tool, since it allows  you to create profiles and easily identify potential connexions between people and educational or ecclesiastical organisations.

This workshop has also allowed new opportunities of collaboration: I will be glad to contribute to the ODIS databases, thanks to Peter Heyrman.

The final surprise was the training on WordPress to create a personal website, especially useful for those of us who do not yet hold a permanent position in academia yet. Thanks to the training, in one day I was able to create a first version of mine: karinabwendling.com.

All in all, this course was a great opportunity to discover many other useful tools for the historian of religions, and I am very grateful to ReIReS for the quality of their programs.”


Thank you very much for this interview, Karina!