Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Place, people, and property

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

History is a messy business, an exercise in imposing order on contradictory information, a series of provisional efforts to select signal from noise, and is best understood, as Steven Shapin wrote about the sciences, “as if it was produced by people with bodies; situated in time, space, culture, and society; and struggling for credibility and authority.” That said, the conceptual legacy of imperialism, with its underlying assumption that “we” can put the land and its bounty to better use than those who live there, seems particularly difficult to unlearn. Witness the contorted reasoning in this article on why the Elgin marbles have stories that can only be told at the British Museum and that returning them to Greece, where the Acropolis Museum is ready and waiting to tell the stories in their proper setting, “would only feed the beast of ideology and nationalist myth.”


Countering historical amnesia

Friday, February 8th, 2019

A promising attempt to recall conveniently forgotten episodes in US history recently debuted at NPR with a story on the CIA-engineered overthrow of Iran’s constitutionally legitimate prime minister, Mohammad Modsaddegh, in 1953. It’s worth a listen and even makes room for some narrative complexity despite the breezy, children’s program format that has infected so much of NPR’s programming following the abrupt removal of Bob Edwards from Morning Edition in 2004. (It appears today’s haute bourgeoisie require quick vocal turns, inexplicable repetition, and scripted banter to match the attention span of a mayfly with ADHD.) (more…)