Questions about the relationship between historical research and contemporary social and practical problems have posed a challenge to generations of historians, as well as to philosophers and theorists of history. In recent years, views regarding the isolation of academic history from real-world issues and affairs have come under increasing criticism. The contributions to this volume all focus on history’s role in the world today and on the possibilities for, and limits to, engagement resulting from disciplinary practices and conventions. The authors undertake their assessment of history’s relevance in different ways, combining case studies of political clashes, public debates, and practices of commemoration with sophisticated theoretical discussions of identity construction, the material manifestations of power, and the relationship between historicizing and expectations concerning future actions. These studies highlight the difficulty of distinguishing between history and politics, and between disciplinary accounts and activism, and contribute significantly towards an improved understanding of our relationship with the past. This book was originally published as a special issue of Rethinking History.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Historians and ‘the current situation’ Kalle Pihlainen
1. The republic of historians: historians as nation-builders in Estonia (late 1980s–early 1990s) Marek Tamm
2. The ‘age of commemoration’ as a narrative construct: a critique of the discourse on the contemporary crisis of memory in France Kenan Van De Mieroop
3. Thinking the past politically: Palestine, power and pedagogy Claire Norton and Mark Donnelly
4. The ideal of objectivity and the public role of the historian: some lessons from the Historikerstreit and the History Wars Anton Froeyman
5. Calliope’s ascent: defragmenting philosophy of history by rhetoric Rik Peters
6. We are history: the outlines of a quasi-substantive philosophy of history Zoltán Boldizsár Simon
7. History, power and visual communication artefacts Katherine Hepworth
Kalle Pihlainen is Senior Research Fellow at the School of Humanities at Tallinn University, Estonia, and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Theory at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. His research focuses on the theory and philosophy of history as well as on literary and historical culture.