Volumes 36-40: Abstracts

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Danto on Representation, Identity, and Indiscernibles


History and Theory, Theme Issue 37 (December 1998), 44-70

Arthur Danto has made important contributions to both aesthetics and philosophy of history. Furthermore, as I shall try to show in this essay, his aesthetics is of great relevance to his philosophy of history, while his philosophy of history is of no less interest for his aesthetics.

By focusing on the notions of representation, identity, and the identity of indiscernibles we shall discover how fruitful this cooperation of aesthetics and philosophy of history may be. Crucial to all historical writing and, hence, to all philosophy of history, is the notion of identity through time and change. How could the historian write the history of x if x cannot be said to remain the same in the course of its history? It will become clear that aesthetics will provide us with a satisfactory solution for the problem, for the aestheticist notion of representation will enable us to define the notion of identity that the historian needs.

Nevertheless, a certain friction can be observed between Danto's aesthetics and his philosophy of history. At the end of this essay I hope to show that Danto's philosophy of history will be our best guide to dealing adequately with this friction.

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Hayden White's Appeal to the Historians


History and Theory 37 (May 1998), 182-193

Historians rarely agree with Hayden White's account of their discipline. To a certain extent their dissatisfaction can be explained by the fact that historians customarily distrust historical theory and always tend to look at the historical theorist with the greatest suspicion. But historians find an extra argument for their dislike of White's ideas in his alleged cavalier disregard of how historical facts limit what the historian might wish to say about the past. And, admittedly, this criticism is not wholly unfounded.

Nevertheless, this essay attempts to show how misguided this traditional criticism of White actually is. For it is historians who too easily take the truth of their accounts of the past for granted, whereas White's theoretical writings can be shown to express a full awareness of the kind of problem encountered in the effort to tell the truth about historical reality. Hence, White's writings-rather than those by historians criticizing White-testify to the respect that we owe to historical reality itself. That this is how we should read White becomes clear if we consider his intellectual evolution as a whole rather than the individual books or essays that he wrote.

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The Sublime Dissociation of the Past: Or How to Be(come) What One Is No Longer


History and Theory 40 (October 2001), 295-323

Forgetting has rarely been investigated in historical theory. Insofar as it attracted the attention of theorists at all, forgetting has ordinarily been considered to be a defect in our relationship to the past that should be overcome in one way or another. The only exception is Nietzsche who so provocatively sung the praises of forgetting in his On the Use and Abuse of History (1874). But Nietzsche's conception is the easy victim of a consistent historicism and therefore in need of correction. Four types of forgetting are identified in this essay. Central in the essay's argument is the fourth type. This is the kind of forgetting taking place when a civilization "commits suicide" by exchanging a previous identity for a new one. Hegel's moving account of the conflict between Socrates and the Athenian state is presented as the paradigmatic example of this kind of forgetting. Two conclusions follow from an analysis of this type of forgetting. First, we can now understand what should be recognized as a civilization's historical sublime and how the notions of the historical sublime and of collective trauma are related. Second, it follows that myth and (scientific) history do not exclude each other; on the contrary, (scientific) history creates myth. This should not be taken to be a defect of history, for this is precisely how it should be.

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The Third Man; or, Agency in History; or, Rationality in Revolution


History and Theory, Theme Issue 40 (December 2001), 143-152 

Theories of revolution invoke human agency to commit the violence that revolution entails, yet theorists of revolution often denounce the general theory of human agency called rational choice because (they say) it does not explain macrosocial facts like revolution and also leaves out culture. Actually, however, rational choice is the major premise of any cogent explanation of revolution, and it includes culture as a factual premise. Rational-choice theory applied to explaining revolution dates back to Thucydides, whose method of explanation is sound and whose theory of revolution is true. Thucydides explains the macrosocial fact of revolution by way of models whose elements are people doing what they hope will succeed, that is, acting on opinion alias culture. Theorists of revolution who make sense of it all rehearse Thucydides: they analyze the narrative history into strategic actions and reactions, explain these actions and reactions by rational choice, and document the explanation with direct and circumstantial evidence for hope of success, though they seldom own up on theory and method or preach what they practice.

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The "Iron Cage" and the "Shell as Hard as Steel": Parsons, Weber, and the stahlhartes Gehäuse Metaphor in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism


History and Theory 40 (may01), 153-169

In the climax to The Protestant Ethic, Max Weber writes of the stahlhartes Gehäuse that modern capitalism has created, a concept that Talcott Parsons famously rendered as the "iron cage." This article examines the status of Parsons's canonical translation; the putative sources of its imagery (in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress); and the more complex idea that Weber himself sought to evoke with the "shell as hard as steel": a reconstitution of the human subject under bureaucratic capitalism in which "steel" becomes emblematic of modernity. Steel, unlike the "element" iron, is a product of human fabrication. It is both hard and potentially flexible. Further, whereas a cage confines human agents, but leaves their powers otherwise intact, a "shell" suggests that modern capitalism has created a new kind of being. After examining objections to this interpretation, I argue that whatever the problems with Parsons's "iron cage" as a rendition of Weber's own metaphor, it has become a "traveling idea," a fertile coinage, in its own right, an intriguing example of how the translator's imagination can impose itself influentially on the text and its readers.

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The Sense of History: On the Political Implications of Karl Löwith's Concept of Secularization


History and Theory 37 (February 1998), 37, 69-82

Written during the period of his emigration to the United States, during and just after World War II, the originality of Karl Löwith's book Meaning in History lies in its resolute critique of all forms of philosophy of history. This critique is based on the now famous idea that modern philosophies of history have only extended and deepened an illusion fabricated by a long tradition of Christian historical reflection: the illusion that history itself has an intrinsic goal. This modern extension and deepening of the chimera propagated by Christian historical reflection is what Löwith terms "secularization." Drawing on the arguments in Meaning in History as well as those proposed in other contemporaneous and earlier writings, including Löwith's heretofore unpublished correspondence with Leo Strauss, this article attempts to set in relief the frequently neglected, yet eminently political implications of Löwith's idea of secularization. Among the problems implicitly considered in relation to the theory of secularization in Meaning in History is a theme frequently addressed in earlier writings: the motives that led German intellectuals like Friedrich Gogarten, Martin Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt to adhere to the Nazi movement.

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Making History, Talking about History


History and Theory 40 (may01), 190-205

Making history&emdash;in the sense of writing it&emdash;is often set against talking about it, with most historians considering writing history to be better than talking about it. My aim in this article is to analyze the topic of making history versus talking about history in order to understand most historians' evident decision to ignore talking about history. Ultimately my goal is to determine whether it is possible to talk about history with any sense.

To this end, I will establish a typology of the different forms of talking practiced by historians, using a chronological approach, from the Greek and Roman emphasis on the visual witness to present-day narrativism and textual analysis. Having recognized the peculiar textual character of the historiographical work, I will then discuss whether one can speak of a method for analyzing historiographical works. After considering two possible approaches&emdash;the philosophy of science and literary criticism&emdash;I offer my own proposal. This involves breaking the dichotomy between making and talking about history, adopting a fuzzy method that overcomes the isolation of self-named scientific communities, and that destroys the barriers among disciplines that work with the same texts but often from mutually excluding perspectives. Talking about history is only possible if one knows about history and about its sources and methods, but also about the foundations of the other social sciences and about the continuing importance of traditional philosophical problems of Western thought in the fields of history and the human sciences.

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On the Problem of Laws in Nature and History: A Comparison


History and Theory, Theme Issue 38 (December 1999), 121-137

In the philosophy of science there has traditionally been a tendency to regard physics as the incarnation of science per se. Accordingly, the status of other disciplines is evaluated then with respect to their ability to produce laws resembling those of physics. This view has yielded a considerable bias in the discussion of historical laws. Philosophers as well as historians have tended to discuss such laws mostly with reference to the situation in physics; this often led to either one of two conclusions, namely that (1) history is epistemologically completely separated from natural science, because it does not have universal laws, or that (2) the ultimate goal of the study of history must be the formulation of such universal laws. I would maintain that neither conclusion is necessary. To substantiate this position, aspects of laws in nature are discussed. One aspect being often neglected is the fact that there are many cases of statistical laws in nature; there is no close link between laws and determinism. Moreover, there are natural systems which have a history, i.e. systems which are, like human history, shaped by irreversible, singular events. One important case is biological evolution and accordingly I discuss the relation between evolutionary theory and historiography. However, since we are part of the living world, one could also ask whether the laws of evolution are of direct relevance for understanding our history, in addition to the methodological similarities between the two fields. This issue of history as evolution is being investigated in detail in the final section of the paper.

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Mind and Method in the History of Ideas


History and Theory 36 (May 1997), 167–189

J. G. A. Pocock and Quentin Skinner have led a recent onslaught on the alleged "myth of coherence" in the history of ideas. But their criticisms depend on mistaken views of the nature of mind: respectively, a form of social constructionism, and a focus on illocutionary intentions at the expense of beliefs. An investigation of the coherence constraints that do operate on our ascriptions of belief shows historians should adopt a presumption of coherence, concern themselves with coherence, and proceed to reconstruct sets of beliefs as coherent wholes. The history of ideas merges history with aspects of philosophy, where philosophy is understood as the study of the grammar of our concepts.

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Language and the Shift from Signs to Practices in Cultural Inquiry


History and Theory 39 (October 2000), 289-310

A model of culture as a partially coherent system of signs comprised the most widely employed instrument for analyzing cultural meaning among the new cultural historians. However, the model failed to account for meanings that are produced by agents engaged in practices that are not guided by "reading" the contrasts among signs. It also encouraged some analysts to conceive the difference between sign system and concrete practice as that between what is graspable as an intellectual form and what remains inaccessibly material or corporeal. This essay introduces three exemplars of the ties between signs and practices to show how the pragmatics of using signs comprises a structure and a generator of meaning in its own right. In the three exemplars, which are based on the tropes of metonymy, metaphor, and irony, I employ the analytic tools of linguistics to appreciate the non-discursive organization of practice. Analysis of the diverse logics for organizing practice offers promising means for investigating how signs come to seem experientially real for their users. Finally, this view of culture in practice suggests new hypotheses about the possible interdependencies as well as the lack of connection among the elements of a cultural setting.

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History, Differential Inclusions, and Narrative


History and Theory, Theme Issue 40 (December 2001), 101-115

Recent advances in the theory of dynamical systems, set-valued analysis, and viability theory offer new and interesting perspectives on the shaping of social and historical time. Specific aspects of these theories are presented in several different areas to show their concrete applications in history and historical demo-economy, and a parallel is established with novelist Tanizaki's fictional technique. In connection with this, McCloskey's 1991 comparison of storytelling with deterministic chaos is discussed and a critique of other models concerned with unpredictability in human affairs provided. Finally, the shapings of social and historical time are described in terms of the viable strategies at the heart of evolutionary processes involving human agents interacting with a variety of constraints

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Explaining "Auschwitz" after the End of History: The Case of Italy


History and Theory 38 (February 1999), 84-99

Everywhere the 1990s have been characterized by an odd mixture of ideological triumphalism-Fukuyama's "end of history" being only the crassest example-and of ideological uncertainty-can there be, should there be, a "third way"? For all its pretensions to universality, the "New World Order" has never lost a fragility in appearance. Students of historiography can scarcely be surprised to learn that an uneasiness over the present and future has in turn frequently entailed uncertainty about the past and particularly about those parts of the past which had seemed most able to give clear and significant "lessons."

One evident example is the history of what in my Explaining Auschwitz and Hiroshima (1993) I called the "long" Second World War, that is, that crisis in confidence in the relationship between political and economic liberalism and the nation-state which, by the end of 1938, had left only Britain, France, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia as in any sense preserving those "liberal" freedoms which had spread across Europe since 1789. In this article, I briefly review the most recent difficulties World War II combatant societies have had in locating a usable past in the history of those times. However, my major focus is on the specific case of Italy, very much a border state in the Cold War system, and today the political home of an "Olive Tree" and a "Liberty Pole" whose historical antecedents and whose philosophical base for the future are less than limpid. 1990s Italian historians thus give very mixed messages about the Fascist past; these are the messages I describe and decode.

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Peasants, Historians, and Gender: A South African Case Study Revisited, 1850–1886


History and Theory, Theme Issue 39 (December 2000), 86-110

A gender revolution allegedly occurred in the British Cape Colony (and South Africa at large) in the nineteenth century. African patriarchs, traditionally pastoralists, took over women's agricultural work, adopted Victorian gender attributes, and became prosperous peasants (nicknamed "black English"). Scholars have accepted the plausibility of these seismic shifts in masculinity, postulated in Colin Bundy's classic, The Rise & Fall of the South African Peasantry. I re-examine them, for Bundy's "Case Study" of Herschel, acclaimed as one of the regions that best fits his thesis. This Case Study omits women, who were the typical peasant producers. It marginalizes men failing to conform to bourgeois Victorian gender norms. It misrepresents class formation, causation, periodization, and peasant well-being. It misdates proletarianization by at least three decades. The zenith of commodity production is misdated by at least half a century. A labor reservoir characterized by severe subsistence problems is represented as a prosperous peasantry. Bundy postulates that patriarchs "rose" into women's work and colonial masculine scripts in response to favorable conditions; I argue instead that younger men "fell" into these domains in response to disasters. A silent gender bias-towards black Englishmen, against African women-had a marked impact on Bundy's analysis of class formation. The purpose of this article is to interrogate this silence and to show how it has warped a classic text.

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Human Nature and History


History and Theory, Theme Issue 38 (December 1999), 138-157

What motivated British colonialism? What motivated renaissance Florentines to finance their state? Why did Brazilian men find mixed-race women so attractive? What promotes falsity in reports of human affairs? Why did historical mindedness develop in ancient Greece and China but not India? When homosexual communities developed, why did gay men pursue sexual strategies so different from those of lesbians? Why does a Heian-period Japanese description of fear of snakes sound so familiar to a Westerner? Why have rebels tended to be youngest rather than eldest siblings? To each of these (and many other) questions part of the answer lies in specific, identifiable features of human nature. Thus human nature is and should be a subtantial concern to anyone trying to understand the past. But human nature is also an object of scientific study. This paper explores a portion of this convergence of humanistic and scientific concerns by outlining and illustrating interrelations between human nature and history. Exploration of the interrelations between history and human nature requires a detailed understanding of what human nature is. And whatever human nature may be, it is a product of human evolution. Accordingly, key concepts in evolutionary psychology are presented to provide theoretical tools for understanding the centerpiece of human nature, the human mind. As much as the study of history may benefit from an understanding of human nature, the study of history and the use of historical materials may also promote the scientific study of human nature. Examples are given and several suggestions are presented to forward this task. Finally, an argument is made for a sort of back engineering in which historical events and conditions are traced to the specific features of human nature that motivated, facilitated, or shaped them. Insofar as this task is achieved, it closes the gap between recorded history and evolutionary history, between the humanities and the sciences.

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What If? Modality and History


History and Theory 38 (May 1999), 145-168

Philosophers and historians have long been suspicious of modal and counterfactual claims. I argue, however, that historians often legitimately use modal and counterfactual claims for a variety of purposes. They help identify causes, and hence help explain events in history. They are used to defend judgments about people, and to highlight the importance of particular events. I defend these uses of modal claims against two arguments often used to criticize modal reasoning, using the philosophy of science to ground the truth of modal claims. This analysis puts several important points into perspective, including how certain we can be about our claims about what might have been, and the role that determinism plays in those claims. The proper analysis of modality shows, I argue, that counterfactual claims are legitimate and important, if often uncertain, and that issues of determinism are irrelevant to the modal claims used in historical analysis.

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On Language, Culture, and Social Action


History and Theory, Theme Issue 40 (December 2001), 82-100

This article outlines the theoretical developments experienced in historical studies over the last two decades. As a consequence of the growing critical reconsideration of some of the main theoretical assumptions underlying historical explanation of individuals' meaningful actions, a new theory of society has taken shape among historians during this time. By emphasizing the empirical and analytical distinction between language as a pattern of meanings and language as a means of communication, a significant group of historians has thoroughly recast the conventional notions of society, experience, interests, culture, and identity, and has developed a new concept of social action. Thus, historiographical debate seems to have started to transcend, for the first time, the longstanding and increasingly futile contest or dilemma between objectivism and subjectivism, between materialism and culturalism, between social and intentional explanation, or between social constraints and human agency. The groundwork has now been laid for an alternative to the declining paradigm of social history that does not entail a revisionist return (be it partial or complete) to idealist history but opens a quite different path.

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Place and Time: On the Interplay of Historical Points of View


History and Theory, Theme Issue 40 (December 2001), 153-167

A historian's account of a past action must take into account the agent's point of view, and that point of view may differ radically from that of the historian. This difference of points of view, I argue, may extend to the very place and time of the action in question. In this paper, by exploring the spatial and temporal aspects of action, agency, and the description of past action, I try to describe the interplay of points of view between historian and historical agent. Because of these differences, actions may be embedded in radically different realities for agent and historian, different conceptions of the spatially and temporally real. This is especially true of time: an action may have a very different future for the agent from the future it has in retrospect. These discrepancies, I claim, do not constitute an obstacle that can be overcome, but are structural features of the relation between description and action. This is because they are merely extensions into a particular domain of certain features of relations between persons. I try to show that these features also have implications for the concepts of narrative and of counterfactual history.

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Art Museums, Old Paintings, and our Knowledge of the Past


History and Theory 40 (may01), 170-189

Art museums frequently remove old paintings from their original settings. In the process, the context of these works of art changes dramatically. Do museums then preserve works of art? To answer this question, I consider an imaginary painting The Travels and Tribulations of Piero's Baptism of Christ, depicting the history of display of Piero della Francesca's The Baptism of Christ. This example suggests that how Piero's painting is seen does depend upon its setting. According to the Intentionalist, such changes in context have no real influence upon the meaning of Piero's painting. According to the Skeptic, if such changes are drastic enough, we can no longer identify the picture's original meaning. Museums fail to preserve works of art. Skepticism deserves attention, for such varied influential commentators as Theodore Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Maurice Blanchot, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Martin Heidegger, Hans Sedlmayr, and Paul Valéry hold this pessimistic view of museums. I develop the debate between the Intentionalist and the Skeptic. Ultimately skepticism is indefensible, I argue, because it fails to take account of the continuities in the history of art's display. In presenting the history of Piero's painting, The Travels and Tribulations of Piero's Baptism of Christ shows that we can re-identify the original significance of Piero's work. It makes sense to claim that at least in certain circumstances art museums can preserve works of art.

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Introduction: Danto and His Critics: Art History, Historiography and After the End of Art


History and Theory, Theme Issue 37 (December 1998), 1-16

In Bielefeld, Germany in April, 1997 an author conference was devoted to Arthur C. Danto's 1995 Mellon Lectures After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History (Princeton,1997). This essay provides an introduction to seven essays given at that conference and expanded for this Theme Issue of History and Theory. Danto presented his view of the nature of art in The Transfiguration of the Commonplace (1981). He then added in the Mellon lectures a sociological perspective on the current situation of the visual arts, and an Hegelian historiography. The history of art has ended, Danto claims, and we now live in a posthistorical era. Since in his well-known book on historiography, Analytical Philosophy of History (1965), Danto is unsympathetic to Hegel's speculative ways of thinking about history, his adaptation of this Hegelian framework is surprising. Danto's strategy in After the End of Art is best understood by grasping the way in which he transformed the purely philosophical account of The Transfiguration into a historical account. Recognizing that his philosophical analysis provided a good way of explaining the development of art in the modern period, Danto radically changed the context of his argument. In this process, he opened up discussion of some serious but as yet unanswered questions about his original thesis, and about the plausibility of Hegel's claim that the history of art has ended.

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The End of Art?


History and Theory, Theme Issue 37 (December 1998), 17-29

This article focuses on the arguments that Arthur Danto has advanced for alleging that the developmental history of art is over. The author is skeptical of Danto's conclusion and maintains that Danto has failed to demonstrate that art history is necessarily closed. The author also contends that Danto's end-of-art thesis is better construed as a specimen of art criticism than as an example of the speculative philosophy of art history.

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What Time Is Japan? Problems of Comparative (Intercultural) Historiography


History and Theory 38 (February 1999), 67-83

Rather than reflect on the process of an alleged "modernization" of historical scholarship, an intercultural comparison of historiography should take the European origins of academic history as its starting point. The reason, as this article argues, is that in non-European countries the European genealogy of the discipline of history continued to structure interpretations of the past. Both on the level of method, but more importantly on the level of interpretive strategies, "Europe" remained the yardstick for historiographical explanation. This article will use the example of postwar Japanese historiography to show that historians resorted to a European model in order to turn seemingly unconnected events in the Japanese past into a historical narrative. This is not to imply, however, that Japanese historiography passively relied on concepts from Western discourse. On the contrary, Japanese historians appropriated and transformed the elements of this discourse in the specific geopolitical setting of the 1940s and 1950s. This act of appropriation served the political purpose of positioning Japan with respect to Asia and the "West." However, on an epistemological level, the priority of "Europe" persisted; Japanese historiography remained a "derivative discourse." Studies in comparative historiography, therefore, should be attentive to these traces of the European descent of academic history and privilege the transnational history of historiography over meditations on its internal rationalization.

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Memory, Distortion, and History in the Museum


History and Theory, Theme Issue 36 (December 1997), 44-63

Museums are conventionally viewed as institutions dedicated to the conservation of valued objects and the education of the public. Recently, controversies have arisen regarding the representation of history in museums. National museums in America and Germany considered here, such as the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the German Historical Museum, have become sites of contention where national histories and personal memories are often at odds. Contemporary art installations in museums which take historical consciousness as their theme similarly raise contentious issues about public knowledge of and personal interest in the past. When members of publics find that their memories of the past or their expectations for museum experiences are not being met, a kind of "distortion" occurs. The "distortion" related to memory and history in the museum is not so much of facts or interpretations, but rather a distortion from the lack of congruity between personal experience and expectation, on the one hand, and the institutional representation of the past on the other. This essay explores the possibilities for a redefined relationship between personal memory and history that is experienced in contemporary museums.

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Mixed Messages: The Heterogeneity of Historical Discourse


History and Theory 37 (May 1998), 220-244

If, as many historians and theorists now believe, narrative is the form proper to historical explanation, this raises the problem of the terms in which such narratives are to be evaluated. Without a clear account of evaluation, the status of historical knowledge (both in itself and in all those social, political, and other contexts in which appeal to historical explanation is made) remains obscure. Beginning with the view, found in Hayden White and others, that historical narrative constitutes a meaning not reducible to the factual content it engages, this essay argues that such meaning can arise only through a synthesis of cognitive and normative discourses. Narrative combines "heterogeneous" language games in such a way that neither appeal to "truth content" nor to "justice" suffices to decide the question of which of two competing historical explanations is, as a whole, superior. Examining in critical detail the opposed positions on this issue articulated by two recent theorists-Frank Ankersmit ("narrative idealism") and David Carr ("narrative realism")-the paper concludes that the debate between those who hold that historical narratives should be judged in essentially cognitive terms and those who hold that they should be judged in essentially political terms cannot be resolved and that a philosophical view of historical narrative that is neither realist nor idealist needs to be developed.

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The End of Art: A Philosophical Defense


History and Theory, Theme Issue 37 (December 1998), 127-143

This essay constructs philosophical defenses against criticisms of my theory of the end of art. These have to do with the definition of art; the concept of artistic quality; the role of aesthetics; the relationship between philosophy and art; how to answer the question "But is it art?"; the difference between the end of art and "the death of painting"; historical imagination and the future; the method of using indiscernible counterparts, like Warhol's Brillo Box and the Brillo cartons it resembles; the logic of imitation-and the differences between Hegel's views on the end of art and mine. These defenses amplify and fortify the thesis of the end of art as set forth in my After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History (1997).

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Evolutionary Theory and Group Selection: The Question of Warfare


History and Theory, Theme Issue 38 (December 1999), 79-100

Evolutionary anthropology has focused on the origins of war, or rather ethnocentricity, because it epitomizes the problem of group selection, and because war may itself have been the main agent of group selection. The neo-Darwinian synthesis in biology has explained how ethnocentricity might evolve by group selection, and the distinction between evoked culture and adopted culture, suggested by the emerging synthesis in evolutionary psychology, has explained how it might be transmitted. Ethnocentric mechanisms could have evolved by genetic selection in ancestral hominids, or through the interaction of genetic and cultural selection in modern humans, or both. The existence of similar behaviors in chimpanzees and the parallel development of early human societies around the globe are arguments for such inherited mechanisms. There may have been some adaptive breakthroughs in purely cultural evolution, but this process does not seem likely to produce long-term Darwinian adaptations because of the prolificity of cultural traits. Warfare may once have been a major agent of group selection, but the rates of extinction among human groups are so slow as to render this improbable since the rise of state-level societies, whose warfare tends to become a cyclical balance-of-power situation. Perhaps the most serious implication of current evolutionary thought is that the individualistic model of culture common in the social sciences and humanities is outmoded, and should be replaced by a new model that recognizes the organismic nature of human societies.

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Truth's Other: Ethics, the History of the Holocaust, and Historiographical Theory after the Linguistic Turn


History and Theory 39 (February 2000), 1-20

This paper calls for an ethical turn in historiographical theorizing, for reconfiguring history as a discipline of the good as well as the true. It bases this call on the juxtaposition of two recent strands of historiographical discourse hitherto entirely separate: the invocation of the Holocaust, the most morally charged of all past events, as the limit case of historiographical theory in the polemics of Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob, Richard Evans, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Omer Bartov against post-linguistic-turn historiographical thinking; and the profound unease about the adequacy-indeed the very possibility-of reconstructing Auschwitz accurately in the theoretical reflections to which the practice of Holocaust history has led Raul Hilberg, Saul Friedlander, and Dominick LaCapra. The embrace of right and wrong as the other of history's true and false will both enable a more robust condemnation of the Holocaust negationists and nurture a genre of historical representation that will speak more meaningfully to a manifestly history-hungry public than the historical writing of professional historians has done.

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Hayden White: Beyond Irony


History and Theory 37 (May 1998), 173-181

A crisis of our age that is usually identified with the loss of the sacred was one of the causes of the fall into irony in the nineteenth century. In the case of historians, as Hayden White has shown in Metahistory, this irony was caused by a "bitterness" stemming from the failure of reality to fulfill their expectations. An ironic apprehension of the world arose in an atmosphere of social breakdown or cultural decline. A current stage of irony manifests itself in a doubt as to the capacity of language to grasp reality. Thus we live in a "prison house of language." An intellectual parlor-game produces "second-hand knowledge" that cannot satisfy the needs of post-postmodern men and women still looking for another metanarrative. Therefore, the main purpose of this essay is to answer the question: how can we go beyond irony?

This text is a "post-postmodern post mortem to postmodernism." I am grateful to postmodernism for many things, especially for giving me an alternative apprehension of the world in terms of difference and continuity rather than binary oppositions, but I am tired of ontological insecurity and epistemological chaos. I need order. I miss metanarrative.

In trying to break with some modern/postmodern "principles" and retain within my discourse the premodernist perspective, I follow the current trend in the humanities. We observe at present the breakdown of methodology and the rise of a more poetic approach in the human sciences. Evidence of this phenomenon is the more autobiographical form of writing in anthropology (James Clifford, Clifford Geertz) and a more literary style in historical writing (Natalie Zemon Davis, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Simon Schama). This trend is associated with a revaluation of the subjective aspects of research. Perhaps, and I would welcome it, it also could be identified with a reappearance of a Collingwoodian idea of history as human self-knowledge, knowledge about human nature, knowledge about "what it is to be a man . . . what it is to be the kind of man you are . . . and what it is to be the man you are and nobody else is."

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The Regime of Authenticity: Timelessness, Gender, and National History in Modern China


History and Theory 37 (October 1998), 287-308

While there is much writing on the nation as the subject of linear history, considerably less attention has been paid to the dimension of the nation as the always identifiable, unchanging subject of history. This unchanging subject is necessitated by the ascendancy of the conception of linear time in capitalism in which change is viewed not only as accelerating, but can no longer be framed by an ultimate source of meaning such as God. Ostensibly, linear history is the falling of events into the "river of time," but national history also posits a continuous subject to gather these changes. Such a subject is recognizable only by the spiritual qualities of authenticity, purity, and sacrality. The nation-state and nationalists stake their claim to sovereign authority, in part, as custodians of this authenticity.

A range of figures, human and non-human, come to symbolize a regime of authenticity manipulable to some extent by nationalists and state-builders. This essay focuses on the instance of women in early twentieth-century China. Nationalists and cultural essentialists tended to depict women as embodying the eternal Chinese civilizational virtues of self-sacrifice and loyalty and to elevate them as national exemplars. The essay also examines cases of how women themselves may have perceived this role as exemplars and concludes that while there was considerable subversion in their enunciation of this role (to their advantage), there was sufficient reference to the prescriptive code of authenticity in their self-formation to sustain the regime of authenticity. The essay ends with some thoughts about the changing relationship between authenticity and intensifying globalization in the contemporary world.

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Agency in the Discursive Condition


History and Theory, Theme Issue 40 (December 2001), 33-57

This article claims that postmodernity necessarily, and perhaps opportunely, undermines the bases upon which political democracy traditionally has rested; and that therefore some significant work must be done in order to redefine, restore, or otherwise reconfigure democratic values and institutions for a changed cultural condition. This situation presents the opportunity to explore the new options, positive openings, and discursive opportunities that postmodernity presents for political practice; for this the problem of agency provides a focal issue.

The practices of postmodernity, taken together, represent substantial challenges, not just to this or that cherished habit, but to modernity itself and all its corollaries, including its inventions of objectivity, of "the individual" (miserable treasure), and of all the related values (project, capital, consensus and, above all, neutrality) which still underwrite so much of what we do as citizens, consumers, and professionals not to mention as more private persons, parents, and partners. Fortunately, postmodernity does not demolish all our most cherished beliefs, values, and practices; but it does require recognition of how those beliefs, values, and practices actually function and of what alternatives they suppress.

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Agency, Postmodernism, and The Causes of Change


History and Theory, Theme Issue 40 (December 2001), 58-81

This theme issue's call for papers notes that "several prevalent and influential historical practices of the last thirty years have limited agency's significance, . . . seeing the human as the patient of History rather than its agent." The questions implicit in this statement are nowhere more urgent than in those practices collectively known as the "linguistic turn." Yet such questions have been explored sparsely enough in relation to this movement that some adherents can still insist that the ideas they favor do not devalue agency, while many simply ignore the issue and incorporate agency as an integral part of their work. By examining a largely unremarked episode in Michel Foucault's highly influential thought and considering its connections to foundational assumptions of the linguistic turn, we seek to demonstrate in detail why the premises that underlie both structuralism and poststructuralism (the theoretical movements most deeply implicated in the direction the linguistic turn has taken in history) logically require the denial of agency as a causal force and ultimately compel the conclusion that no change can occur in realities as interpreted by humans. We illustrate the intractability of these logical problems by analyzing unsatisfactory defenses from some of the few linguistic-turn historians who have discussed relevant issues, after which we conclude by suggesting that attention to current work in linguistics and cognitive science may help resolve such difficulties.

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Dialectical Itineraries


History and Theory 38 (May 1999), 169-197

This essay is a kind of sequel to an earlier one entitled "Marx's Aufhebung of Philosophy and the Foundations of a Historical-Materialist Science." Departing from the point reached in that essay, I take a Whitmanesque journey through Marx's writings and the logic of a materialist conception of history. I begin with Walt Whitman's very materialist, very dialectical, and very decentered apostrophe in his Song of the Open Road: "You objects that call forth from diffusion my meanings / And give them shape." Taking this apostrophe as my cue, I proceed to elaborate the complexity and the dimensions of dialectical thinking within a historical-materialist framework. The specific purpose of the essay is twofold: to portray the "decentered" dialectical methodology follows from Marx's historical-materialist redefinition of the subject-object relation; and to map the kinds of analytical tasks, the open-ended "itineraries," that a historical-materialist science of Wissenschaft must pursue. This "dialectical cartography" is developed through a critical and hopefully productive response to poststructuralist critiques of dialectics, particularly to those approaches that exaggerate Saussure's notion of the arbitrariness of signs. In this respect my intention is to indicate how the current confrontational relation between historical materialism and poststructuralism, especially over matters of the production of meaning and the analysis of culture, might be transformed intoone of complementarity.

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Does Culture Evolve?


History and Theory, Theme Issue 38 (December 1999), 52-78

The drive to describe cultural history as an evolutionary process has two sources. One from within social theory is part of the impetus to convert social studies into "social sciences" providing them with the status accorded to the natural sciences. The other comes from within biology and biological anthropology in the belief that the theory of evolution must be universal in its application to all functions of all living organisms. The social scientific theory of cultural evolution is pre-Darwinian, employing a developmental model of unfolding characterized by intrinsic directionality, by definable stages that succeed each other and by some criterion of progress. It is arbitrary in its definitions of progress and has had the political problem that a diachronic claim of cultural progress implies a synchronic differential valuation of present-day cultures. The biological scheme creates an isomorphism between the Darwinian mechanism of evolution and cultural history, postulating rules of cultural "mutation", cultural inheritance and some mechanism of natural selection among cultural alternatives. It uses simplistic ad hoc notions of individual acculturation and of the differential survival and reproduction of cultural elements. It is unclear what useful work is done by substituting the metaphor of evolution for history.

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How Real Is the Reality in Documentary Film?

JILL GODMILOW, in conversation with ANN-LOUISE SHAPIRO History and Theory, Theme Issue 36 (December 1997), 80-101

Documentary film, in the words of Bill Nichols, is one of the "discourses of sobriety" that include science, economics, politics, and history-discourses that claim to describe the "real," to tell the truth. Yet documentary film, in more obvious ways than does history, straddles the categories of fact and fiction, art and document, entertainment and knowledge. And the visual languages with which it operates have quite different effects than does the written text. In the following interview conducted during the winter of 1997, historian Ann-Louise Shapiro raises questions about genre-the relationship of form to content and meaning-with documentary filmmaker Jill Godmilow.

In order to explore the possibilities and constraints of non-fiction film as a medium for representing history, Godmilow was asked: What are the strategies and techniques by which documentary films make meaning? In representing historical events, how does a non-fiction filmmaker think about accuracy? authenticity? invention? What are the criteria you have in mind when you call a film like The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl "dishonest"? How does the tension between making art and making history affect documentary filmmaking? Should documentary filmmakers think of themselves, in the phrase of Ken Burns, as "tribal storytellers"? What kind of historical consciousness is produced by documentary film?

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The Relations between Geography and History Reconsidered


History and Theory 36 (May 1997), 216–234

The ideas of Sauer, Darby, Clark, and Meinig have had a formative influence on the making of modern Anglo-American historical geography. These scholars emphasized the spatial- and place-focused orientation of geography, contrasting it with history's concern with time, the past, and change. Historical geography was conceived as combining the spatial interests of geography with the temporal interest of history, creating a field concerned with changing spatial patterns and landscapes. This idea of historical geography avoided issues in the philosophy of history by making the historical geographer a kind of spectator to external changes in the ways things were ordered and arranged on the face of the earth. This "natural history" view of historical geography failed to deal with history conceived as an autonomous mode of understanding in which the scholar's task is to understand human activity as an embodiment of thought. Historical geography is more adequately conceived as a Collingwoodian-type historical discipline, in which the task of the historical geographer is aimed at rethinking and displaying the thought of historical agents as their actions relate to the physical environment. The traditional subject matter of historical geography is not thereby redefined, but a change in the way geography is seen in its relation to history is necessitated.

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Cultural Meanings and Cultural Structures in Historical Explanation


History and Theory 39 (October 2000), 331-347

One way to recast the problem of cultural explanation in historical inquiry is to distinguish two conceptualizations involving culture: (1) cultural meanings as contents of signification (however theorized) that inform meaningful courses of action in historically unfolding circumstances; and (2) cultural structures as institutionalized patterns of social life that may be elaborated in more than one concrete construction of meaning. This distinction helps to suggest how explanation can operate in accounting for cultural processes of meaning-formation, as well as in other ways that transcend specific meanings, yet are nonetheless cultural. Examples of historical explanation involving each construct are offered, and their potential examined.

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The Invention of History: The Pre-History of a Concept from Homer to Herodotus


History and Theory 39 (October 2000), 384-395

The following pages, which deal with the pre-history of the concept of history from Homer to Herodotus, first propose to decenter and historicize the Greek experience. After briefly presenting earlier and different experiences, they focus on three figures: the soothsayer, the bard, and the historian. Starting from a series of Mesopotamian oracles (known as "historical oracles" because they make use in the apodosis of the perfect and not the future tense), they question the relations between divination and history, conceived as two, certainly different, sciences of the past, but which share the same intellectual space in the hands of the same specialists. The Greek choices were different. Their historiography presupposes the epic, which played the role of a generative matrix. Herodotus wished to rival Homer; what he ultimately became was Herodotus. Writing dominates; prose replaces verse; the Muse, who sees and knows everything, is no longer around. So I would suggest understanding the emblematic word "historia" as a subsititute, which operates as an analogue of the (previous) omnivision of the Muse. But before that, Herodotean "invention"- the meeting of Odysseus and the bard Demodocus, where for the first time the fall of Troy is told-can be seen as the beginning, poetically speaking at least, of the category of history.

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Being Hegelian after Danto


History and Theory, Theme Issue 37 (December 1998), 71-86

In this article I will discuss some systematic issues of Arthur Danto's philosophy of art and art history from a Hegelian perspective. Belonging to "Absolute Spirit," art can be called a "spiritual kind." Since spiritual kinds are reflective and self-determining, they are not susceptible to philosophical definition. Nevertheless, elements of essentialism can be maintained when describing art's historicity and conceptual structure. To this end, "art" can be interpreted as a two-tier concept: in inherently reflecting its concept, it projects its own conditions into the past, co-opting "prehistorical" artworks as predecessors and classical examples. Hegel's view of art as conceptually structured in itself can have disenfranchising or reenfranchising consequences: either reducing art to minor philosophy, or acknowledging its privileged access to its own essence. After Danto's detachment of the philosophy of art from aesthetics, Hegel would himself be deprived of the possibility to "define" art by intuition (Anschauung). Even if the spirit consists of essential kinds, philosophy is not in a privileged position to establish the essence of art and thus the difference between art and philosophy. Rather, philosophy must acknowledge art as a neighbor (Heidegger) and as partner in a dialogue.

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The New Annalistic: A Sketch of a Theory of History


History and Theory 36 (October 1997), 317–335

This article argues for the establishment of a new, "annalistic" model of history and historical investigation. This implies a new concept of historical event: instead of being seen as an element within a historical narrative, the historical event is defined as the common reference point of many narratives that can be told about it. The annalistic model also implies a new concept of historical change: instead of being defined as the change of an "object" within a set of given historical parameters, historical change has to be perceived as the change of parameters related to a given historical object. A new concept of history follows from the annalistic model: instead of history being a metaphysical unity of space and time (the destiny of mankind, the positivist's world of facts), in which everything is linked to everything, it is instead the product of historical judgment carried out by those who design stories about their own past, present, and future. To the "annalist" a world is imaginable in which no history has existed, exists, or will exist. The article analyzes three aspects of the concept of historical time: it demonstrates the huge variety of temporal structures in history; it argues for the foundation of the representation of historical time in linguistic concepts; and it discusses the relationship of fictionality and reality in historical discourse. Finally, the annalistic model is compared to the traditional concept of history established by historicism in the nineteenth century.

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From Savages and Barbarians to Primitives: Africa, Social Typologies, and History in Eighteenth-Century French Philosophy


History and Theory 36 (May 1997), 190–215

This article describes the conceptual framework (what I call a "style of reasoning") within which knowledge about Africa was legitimized in eighteenth-century French philosophy. The article traces a shift or rupture in this conceptual framework which, at the end of the eighteenth century, led to the emergence of new conditions for knowledge legitimation that altered Europe's perception of Africa. The article examines these two conceptual frameworks within the context of a discussion of the social theory of the time, which categorized Africans first as savages, and then, with the advent of our modern "style of reasoning," as primitives. The argument used to demonstrate this change in categorizations is historical. (In the terminology of Michel Foucault, the paper is an "archaeological" investigation of knowledge about Africa.) The greater part of the article analyzes in detail the principal social theory of Enlightenment philosophy, the stadial theory of society, with the aim of demonstrating how it determined what could be affirmed about Africa. The shift in the perception of Africans from savages to primitives involved an epistemological change in how societies were grasped. The article provides a greater understanding of the constitution of Africa as a cognitive construct, which is not only of theoretical concern; this construct shaped Europe's intervention in Africa, and continues to influence what we believe Africa is and should become.

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A Postmodern Reply to Perez Zagorin


History and Theory 39 (May 2000), 181-200

This article engages with the arguments forwarded by Perez Zagorin against the possible consequences of postmodernism for history as it is currently conceived of particularly in its "proper" professional/academic form ("History, the Referent, and Narrative: Reflections on Postmodernism Now," History and Theory 38, [1999], 1-24). In an overtly positioned response which issues from a close reading of Zagorin's text, I argue that his all-too-typical misunderstandings of postmodernism need to be "corrected"-not, however, to make postmodernism less of a threat to "history as we have known it," or to facilitate the assimilation of its useful elements while exorcising its "extremes." My "corrections" instead forward the claim that, understood positively and integrated into those conditions of postmodernity which postmodernism variously articulates at the level of theory, such theory signals the possible "end of history," not only in its metanarrative styles (which are already becoming increasingly implausible) but also in that particular and peculiar professional genre Zagorin takes as equivalent to history per se. And I want to argue that if this theory is understood in ways which choose not to give up (as Derrida urges us not to give up) the "discourse of emancipation" after the failure of its first attempt in the "experiment of modernity," then this ending can be considered "a good thing."

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Reconstructing Culture in Historical Explanation: Narratives as Cultural Structure and Practice


History and Theory 39 (October 2000), 311-330

The problem of how to access and deploy the explanatory power of culture in historical accounts has long remained vexing. A recent approach, combining and transcending the "culture as structure"/ "culture as practice" divide among social historians, puts explanatory focus on the recursivity of meaning, agency, and structure in historical transformation. This article argues that meaning construction is at the nexus of culture, social structure, and social action, and must be the explicit target of investigation into the cultural dimension of historical explanation. Through an empirical analysis of political alliance during the Irish Land War, 1879–1882, I demonstrate that historians can uncover meaning construction by analyzing the symbolic structures and practices of narrative discourse.

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Essentialism and Historicism in Danto's Philosophy of Art


History and Theory, Theme Issue 37 (December 1998), 30-43

Arthur C. Danto has long defended essentialism in the philosophy of art, yet he has been interpreted by many as a historicist. This essentialism/historicism conflict in the interpretation of his work reflects the same conflict both within his thought and, more importantly, within modern art itself. Danto's strategy for resolving this conflict involves, among other things, a Bildungsroman of modern art failing to discover its essence, an essentialist definition of art provided by philosophy which is indemnified against history, and a thesis about the end of art once it has been defined. Is this strategy successful, or does it result, as I argue, in a philosophical disenfranchisement of art of precisely the type that Danto himself has criticized?

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What is the State? The Russian Concept of Gosudarstvo in the European Context


History and Theory 40 (may01), 206-240

What allows us to talk about the state as an active agent when we understand that only individuals act? This article draws comparisons between Quentin Skinner's exposition of the history of the concept of the state in major European languages and the history of its equivalent Russian term gosudarstvo in order to provide some general hypotheses on the development of the phenomenon of the state, and on the origins of this baffling usage. First, summing up a vast number of historical and lexicographical works, it attempts a detailed reconstruction of the conceptual development of the term in the Russian language. Second, a peculiarity of the Russian case is discussed, in which absolutist thinkers (and not republicans, as in western Europe) stressed the difference between the person of the ruler and the state. Third, political interests in introducing such novel usage are discussed, together with the role of this usage in the formation of the state. This allows us to see better the origins of current faith in the existence of the state as a more or less clearly designated and independent actor, predicated on the mechanism of what Pierre Bourdieu described as "mysterious delegation."

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Asymmetrical Historical Comparison: The Case of the German Sonderweg


History and Theory 38 (February 1999), 40-50

Frequently, historical comparisons are asymmetrical in the sense that they investigate one case carefully while limiting themselves to a mere sketch of the other case(s) which serve(s) as comparative reference point(s). The debate on the German Sonderweg (special path) and the rich historical literature originating from this debate can serve as examples. This article reconstructs the pros and cons within this controversial debate, reports its results and puts it into a broader historical context. It analyzes the comparative logic implied by the Sonderweg thesis and argues that the interpretation of modern German history in the sense of a Sonderweg can only be maintained if related to the question why Germany turned fascist and totalitarian in the interwar period while other (comparable) societies did not, and if Western countries are selected as units of comparison. The choice of comparative reference points turns out to be decisive and partly dependent on normative priorities and conventions. The article points to dangers and opportunities inherent in asymmetrical comparison.

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According to What: Art and the Philosophy of the "End of Art"


History and Theory, Theme Issue 37 (December 1998), 87-101

In 1964, when Danto first encountered Warhol's Brillo Box, Jasper Johns made a painting titled According to What. Danto's new book After the End of Art also provokes this question because in his restatement of Hegel's verdict on art's historical role he drops an essential part of the implied definition of art: the issue of adequacy between content and presentation. Why dispense with this crucial point of quality judgment? My critique falls into three parts. The first part shows how the whole historical argument rests upon a shift of criteria. According to Hegel art reached its highest point of achievement in classical antiquity when adequate embodiment seemed indispensable to the presence of the spirit. It subsequently lost this exclusive rank-first through Christianity, then through modern philosophy-when a new spiritual self-awareness emerged which no longer seemed to need external manifestation. Although Danto disputes the concept of absolute self-possession as the metaphysical vanishing point of Hegel's construction, he nevertheless subscribes to its apparent evidence in late twentieth-century art and culture. In the second part I discuss the characteristic distortions of Hegelian-type historicism and confront them with both the obvious misrepresentation of the works of art themselves and the different code of conduct in practical art history. This leads to a rather disenchanting conclusion: according to an old, deeply ingrained philosophical prejudice there is no problem about quality in art, because the true yardstick and fulfillment of art is philosophy itself. The final part tries to unpick this tangle by showing that there was in fact, contemporaneous with Hegel, a remarkably different interpretation of the self-same auspices of modern art which comes much closer to its actual achievements, and this without denying the basic philosophical predicament of which Danto has reminded us.

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The Grammar of Domination and the Subjection of Agency: Colonial Texts and Modes of Evidence


History and Theory, Theme Issue 39 (December 2000), 45-68

This article focuses on colonial accounts of the killing of the Xhosa chief, Hintsa, in 1835 at the hands of British forces along what came to be known as the eastern Cape frontier. It explores the evidentiary procedures and protocols through which the event came to be narrated in colonial frames of intelligibility. In proposing a strategy for reading the colonial archive, the paper strategically interrupts the flow from an apartheid historiography to what is commonly referred to as "alternative history." The aim in effecting this interruption is to call attention to the enabling possibilities of critical history. This is achieved not by way of declaration but rather through a practice whereby the foundational category of evidence is problematized. The paper alludes to the limits of alternative history and its approaches to evidence on the one hand, and the conditions of complicity within which evidence is produced on the other. Whereas alternative history identifies its task as one of re-writing South African history, critical history, it is suggested, offers the opportunity to reconstitute the field of history by addressing the sites of its production and also its practices. In exploring the production of the colonial record on the killing of Hintsa, the paper seeks to complicate alternative history's slippage in and out of the evidentiary rules established by colonial domination even as it constitutes the category of evidence as an object for a politics of history of the present.

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The Future of the Past: Historiographical Disputes and Competing Memories in Germany and Israel


History and Theory 38 (February 1999), 51-66

During the last two decades, a surge of historical revisionism has commanded considerable attention in both academia and the public sphere, as historians have linked their understandings of the past to salient problems and identity crises of the present. Increasingly, the histories of nations have been problematized and have become the object of commemorative battles. Historiographical disputes thus reveal no less about contemporary political sensibilities than they do about a nation's history. This article situates the proliferation of historical revisionism within the context of ongoing negotiations regarding the meaning of the nation at the end of the twentieth century. Through a comparison of recent historians' disputes in Germany and Israel, I explore the relationship between revisionism and collective memory, and the ways in which both are reflective of and contribute to the reformation of national identification. While national identities are usually predicated on continuities with the past, new German and Israeli identities are being defined in opposition to the founding myths of their nation-states. Both are continuously reassessing their pasts, negotiating the balance between a commitment to universal (democratic) values and the persistence of particularistic (ethnic) traditions. To be sure, national pasts have been contested before, but until recently the primacy of the nation itself was not significantly challenged. I suggest understanding the ongoing phenomenon of national demystification in the context of changing state–society relations. States no longer enjoy the same hegemonic power over the means of collective commemoration. In contrast to the state-supportive role of historians during the formative phase of nationalism, collective memory has become an increasingly contested terrain. In both countries, revisionists from the left and right self-consciously struggle to provide historical narratives of their nation's past to suit their present political views of the future. 

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Causality, Chaos Theory, and the End of the Weimar Republic: A Commentary on Henry Turner's Hitler's Thirty Days to Power


History and Theory 38 (October 1999), 281-299

This article seeks to integrate the roles of structure and human agency in a theory of historical causation, using the fall of the Weimar Republic and in particular Henry Turner's book Hitler's Thirty Days to Power as a case study. Drawing on analogies from chaos theory, it argues that crisis situations in history exhibit sensitive dependence on local conditions, which are always changing. This undermines the distinction between causes and conditions (including counterfactual conditions). It urges instead a distinction between empowering and constraining causes of specific human actions as a more fruitful model. The paper also discusses more briefly two other analogies to chaos theory: 1) similarity across differences in scale as applicable to different levels of individual (psychological) and collective events, which are seen as homologous; 2) a model of branching as applicable to the totality of causes of a given event.

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Can Histories Be True? Narrativism, Positivism, and the "Metaphorical Turn"


History and Theory 37 (October 1998), 309-330

Narrativism, as represented by Hayden White and Frank Ankersmit, can fruitfully be analyzed as an inversion of two brands of positivism. First, narrativist epistemology can be regarded as an inversion of empiricism. Its thesis that narratives function as metaphors which do not possess a cognitive content is built on an empiricist, "picture view" of knowledge. Moreover, all the non-cognitive aspects attributed to narrative as such are dependent on this picture theory of knowledge and a picture theory of representation. Most of the epistemological characteristics that White and Ankersmit attribute to historical narratives therefore share the problems of this picture theory.

The article's second thesis is that the theories of narrative explanation can also fruitfully be analyzed as inversions of positivist covering-law theory. Ankersmit's brand of narrativism is the most radical in this respect because it posits an opposition between narrative and causal modes of comprehension while simultaneously eliminating causality from narrativist historical understanding. White's brand of narrativism is more of a hybrid than is Ankersmit's as far as its theory of explanation is concerned; nevertheless, it can also be fruitfully interpreted as an inversion of covering-law theory, replacing it by an indefinite multitude of explanatory strategies.

Most of the striking characteristics of both White's and Ankersmit's narrativism presuppose positivism in these two senses, especially their claim that historical narratives have a metaphorical structure and therefore no truth-value. These claims are hard to reconcile with the factual characteristics of debates by historians; this problem can be tracked down to the absence in "metaphorical" narrativism of a conceptual connection between historical narratives and historical research.

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Some Afterthoughts on Culture and Explanation in Historical Inquiry


History and Theory 39 (October 2000), 348-363

I argue here that the articles in this forum contain basic agreements. All three reject naturalism, reductionism, and monism while retaining causality as an explanatory category, and all three emphasize the role of time and argue for a view in which culture is regarded as both structured and contingent.

The differences among the explanatory proposals of Hall, Biernacki, and Kane are as important as the similarities: while Hall favors a Weberian approach, Biernacki argues for a primarily pragmatic explanation of culture, and Kane for a primarily semiotic explanation. I argue that all three positions face immanent problems in elucidating the exact nature of cultural explanation. While Hall leaves the problem of "extrinsic" ideal-typical explanation unsolved, Biernacki simply presupposes the superiority of pragmatic over other types of cultural explanation, and Kane does the same for semiotic explanation. Hints at cultural explanation in the form of narrative remain underargued and are built on old ideas of an opposition between "analysis" and "narrative." This is also the case with the latest plea for "analytic narratves." I conclude that a renewed reflection on this opposition is called for in order to come to grips with cultural explanation and to get beyond the old stereotypes regarding the relationship between historical and social-scientific approaches to the past.

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Comparative Historiography: Problems and Perspectives


History and Theory 38 (February 1999), 25-39

Just like history, historiography is usually written and analyzed within one spatio-temporal setting, traditionally that of a particular nation-state. As a consequence, historiography tends to localize explanations for historiographical developments within national contexts and to neglect international dimensions. As long as that is the case, it is impossible to assess the general and specific aspects of historiographical case studies. This forum, therefore, represents a sustained argument for comparative approaches to historiography.

First, my introduction takes a recent study in Canadian historiography as a point of departure in order to illustrate the problems of non-comparative historiography. These problems point to strong arguments in favor of comparative approaches. Second, I place comparative historiography as a genre in relation to a typology that orders theories of historiography on a continuum ranging from general and philosophical to particular and empirical. Third, I put recent debates on the "fragmentation" of historiography in a comparative perspective. Worries among historians about this fragmentation-usually associated with the fragmentation of the nation and the advent of multiculturalism and/or postmodernism-are legitimate when they concern the epistemological foundations of history as a discipline. As soon as the "fragmentation" of historiography leads to-and is legitimated by-epistemological skepticism, a healthy pluralism has given way to an unhealthy relativism. As comparison puts relativism in perspective by revealing its sociohistorical foundations, at the same time it creates its rational antidote.

Fourth, I summarize the contributions to this forum; all deal-directly or indirectly-with the historiography of the Second World War. Jürgen Kocka's "Asymmetrical Historical Comparison: The Case of the German Sonderweg" examines the so-called "special path" of Germany's history. Daniel Levy's "The Future of the Past: Historiographical Disputes and Competing Memories in Germany and Israel" offers a comparative analysis of recent historiographical debates in Germany and Israel. Sebastian Conrad's "What Time is Japan? Problems of Comparative (Intercultural) Historiography" analyzes the conceptual linkage between Japanese historiography and specific interpretations of European history. Richard Bosworth's "Explaining 'Auschwitz' after the End of History: The Case of Italy" charts in a comparative perspective the changes since 1989 in Italian historiography concerning fascism. All four articles support the conclusion that next to the method of historical comparison is the politics of comparison, which is hidden in the choice of the parameters. Analyses of both method and politics are essential for an understanding of (comparative) historiography.

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The Essential Difference between History and Science


History and Theory 36 (February 1997), 1–14

My thesis is that there is a deep, intractable difference, not between history and science per se, but between paradigmatically central kinds of historical interpretations-call them humanistic historical interpretations-and theories of any sort that are characteristic of the physical sciences. The difference is that unlike theories in the physical sciences, good humanistic historical interpretations (purport to) reveal subjectivity, agency, and meaning. I use the controversy provoked by Gordon Wood's recent reinterpretation of the American Revolution to illustrate and substantiate this thesis. I also use it to support the claim that unless one attends to the ways in which humanistic historical interpretations reveal subjectivity, agency, and meaning one has no hope whatsoever of getting the epistemology of historical studies right.

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Progress in Historical Studies


History and Theory 37 (February 1998), 14-39

Has there been progress in historical studies, in the sense that we understand the past better now than previously? I argue that there has been such progress. In the case of the interpretational controversy over the American Revolution, it has consisted, among other things, in the development of interpretations that are more accurate, more comprehensive, better balanced, and better justified. In addition, the repeated development of interpretations with these characteristics has encouraged interpretational convergence, if not overall, then at least within what I call interpretive polarities, of which the competition between Whig- and Progressive-oriented interpretations of the Revolution is an example. Further, except for a certain sort of ignorance about human nature coupled with the desire for richer and more relevant interpretational meaning, probably there would have been even more convergence. However, the use of interpretational convergence as a criterion of progress in historical studies rests on a profound and widespread misunderstanding of the differences between historical studies and the physical sciences. Interpretational divergence is not necessarily a bad thing. In the case of the controversy over the Revolution, we should want even more interpretational divergence than we have gotten so far, provided it is of the right kind. The seeming-descensus that results, far from being an embarrassment to historical studies, should be regarded as one of its best features. Finally, in response to predictable relativistic and skeptical objections, there are, if not external checks on the adequacy of historical interpretations, then something that is close enough to such checks to promote a kind of growth in historical understanding that is progress worth caring about.

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History and the Scientific Worldview


History and Theory 37 (February 1998), 1-13

Worldviews affect human behavior, and how we behave affects the world around us. Animism and so-called higher religions remain influential world-views; but the scientific worldview is comparably significant, and has under-gone drastic change during the twentieth century. The physical science ideal of mathematical precision and predictability, as elaborated by Galileo, Newton, and their heirs, underwent an amazing transformation in the twentieth century when Big Bang cosmology substituted an expanding, unstable universe for the Newtonian world machine. As a result, a grand convergence of the sciences seems to be emerging around an evolutionary vision of how new aspects of reality emerge locally from new levels of complexity, like the heavier atoms, forged in stellar furnaces, the living molecules that arose in earth's primordial seas, and the symbolic systems invented by human societies perhaps as recently as forty thousand years ago. History, once a hopelessly inexact laggard among the sciences, might even become something of a model for other disciplines, since it deals with the most complex levels of reality we are aware of, that is, the world of agreed-upon meanings that guides our interaction with one another and with the biological, chemical, and physical worlds around us.

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Passing Strange: The Convergence of Evolutionary Science with Scientific History


History and Theory 40 (February 2001), 1-15

In the second half of the twentieth century, a surprising change in the notion of scientific truth gained ground when an evolutionary cosmology made the Newtonian world machine into no more than a passing phase of the cosmos, subject to exceptions in the neighborhood of Black Holes and other unusual objects. Physical and chemical laws ceased to be eternal and universal and became local and changeable, that is, fundamentally historical instead, and faced an uncertain, changeable future just as they had in the initial phases of the cosmos.

The earth sciences along with biology had become historical in the nineteenth century; and the Big Bang cosmology in effect brought physics and chemistry into line, allowing venturesome intellects to concoct a new all-embracing worldview that recognizes the catalytic role of the observer in defining what is observed, and how different levels of local complexity provoke new and surprising phenomena--including terrestrial life forms, and most notably for us, humanly-constructed symbolic meanings--of which science is only one example.

The article then argues that it is time for historians to take note of the imperial role thus thrust upon their discipline by making a sustained effort to enlarge their views and explore the career of humankind on earth as a whole, thus making human history an integral part of the emerging scientific and evolutionary worldview.

Tentative suggestions of how this might be addressed, focusing on changes in patterns of communication that expanded the scale of human cooperation, and thus conduced to survival, follow. Dance, then speech, were early breakthroughs expanding the practicable size of wandering human bands; then caravans and shipping allowed civilizations to arise; writing expanded the scale of coordination; warfare and trade harshly imposed best practice across wide areas of Eurasia and Africa and kept the skills of that part of the world ahead of what the peoples of other continents and islands had at their command. Then with the crossing of the oceans after 1492 our One World began to emerge and swiftly assumed its contemporary shape with further improvements in the range and capacity of communication--for example, printing, mechanically-powered transport, instantaneous data transmission--with consequences for human society and earth's ecosystem yet to be experienced.

Much remains to be investigated and, in particular, interactions between the history of human symbolic meanings and the history of other equilibria--ecological, chemical, physical--within which we exist needs further study. But with suitable effort, history can perhaps become scientific and the emerging scientific evolutionary worldview begin to achieve logical completeness by bringing humankind within its scope.

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Bias in Historical Description, Interpretation, and Explanation


History and Theory 39 (February 2000), 39-66

Debates between historians show that they expect descriptions of past people and events, and interpretations of historical subjects, and genetic explanations of historical changes, to be fair and not misleading. Sometimes unfair accounts of the past are the result of historians' bias, of their preferring one account over others because it accords with their interests. It is useful to distinguish history which is misleading by accident from that which is the result of personal bias; and to distinguish personal bias from cultural bias and general cultural relativity.

This paper explains what fair descriptions, interpretations, and explanations are like in order to clarify the senses in which they can be biased. It then explains why bias is deplorable, and after noting those who regard it as more or less inevitable, considers how personal bias can be avoided. It argues that it is not detachment that is needed, but commitment to standards of rational inquiry.

Some might think that rational standards of inquiry will not be enough to avoid bias if the evidence available to the historian is itself biased. In fact historians often allow for bias in evidence, and even explain it when reconstructing what happened in the past.

The paper concludes by noting that although personal bias can be largely avoided, cultural bias is not so easy to detect or correct.

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Max Weber's "Grand Sociology": The Origins and Composition of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Sociologie


History and Theory 39 (October 2000), 364-383

Max Weber's magnum opus Economy and Society (Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Soziologie) was for the most part published only after his premature death in June 1920. Only the chapters on basic sociological terms, the categories of social action, and the Three Times of Legitimate Domination were sent to the publishers by Weber himself; the other manuscripts were found in a pile on his desk. The editions by Marianne Weber and Melchior Palyi and by Johannes F. Winckelmann are in many ways unsatisfactory, and the controversy about the correct composition of Economy and Society persists. This article reconstructs the origins of the various texts of Economy and Society on the basis of the available source material, notably the correspondence between Weber, Marianne Weber, and the publishers. It shows that in many ways the editions available at present do not live up to Max Weber's own intentions. Both the arrangement and the precise wording of the texts are unreliable, and the time sequence of the texts written from 1909 to 1914 and then in part rewritten and reorganized in 1919–1920 is uncertain. A segment of an earlier draft of parts of the chapter on Communities (Gemeinschaften) found among Weber's papers allows the conclusion that as early as 1905–1906, Weber had outlined a universal historical scheme of all known civilizations. This is to say that Economy and Society is not as closely linked to Weber's work on the Outline of Social Economics (Grundriss der Sozialökonomic) as has been previously assumed. This article offers a precise reconstruction of the complicated history of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Soziologie-the exact title agreed upon by Weber and his publisher Paul Siebeck shortly before his death. It shows the development of Weber's theoretical conceptions and the corresponding changes of his terminology much more clearly, and paves the way to a better understanding of his magnum opus.

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Structure and Agency in the Holocaust: The Case of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen


History and Theory 37 (May 1998), 194-219

A striking aspect of the so-called "Goldhagen debate" has been the bifurcated reception Hitler's Willing Executioners has received: the enthusiastic welcome of journalists and the public was as warm as the impatient dismissal of most historians was cool. This article seeks to transcend the current impasse by analyzing the underlying issues of Holocaust research at stake here. It argues that a "deep structure" necessarily characterizes the historiography of the Holocaust, comprising a tension between its positioning in "universalism" and "particularism" narratives. While the former conceptualizes the Holocaust as an abstract human tragedy and explains its occurrence in terms of processes common to modern societies, the latter casts its analysis in ethnic and national categories: the Holocaust as an exclusively German and Jewish affair. These narratives possess important implications for the balance of structure and human agency in the explanation of the Holocaust: where the universalism narrative emphasizes the role of impersonal structures in mediating human action, the particularism narrative highlights the agency of human actors. Although historical accounts usually combine these narratives, recent research on the Holocaust tends in the universalist direction, and this bears on the sensitive issue of responsibility for the Holocaust by problematizing the common-sense notion of the perpetrators' intention and responsibility. Goldhagen is responding to this trend, but by retreating to the particularism narrative and employing an inadequate definition of intention, he fails to move the debate forward. It is time to rethink the concept of intention in relation to events like the Holocaust.

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A Brief History of Evolution


History and Theory, Theme Issue 38 (December 1999), 10-32

This paper presents a non-reductionist framework of eight nested modes of evolution that have successively emerged to organize the reproduction of all organisms, from the blue-green algae to our societies. The processes of biological, "Darwinian," evolution are those of drift during reproduction, and of selection. The key unit of evolutionary time is the generation, and its locus is the organisms' life-cycle setup. Different life-cycle setups support different mechanisms of reproduction, and therefore different modes of evolution. By tracing the different life-cycle setups attested throughout Life's History, we are able to characterize the successive modes of evolution with which they are associated. The present attempt has led to a characterization of the following eight nested modes of evolution: Basic; Reptilian; Archaic Mammalian; Progressive Mammalian; Socio-cultural; Extrasomatically Enhanced Socio-cultural; Tinkering; and finally Para-biological. These successively emerging modes govern a progressively reduced number of life-forms. The first four modes are "Darwinian" in the strict sense. The fifth, or socio-cultural mode, which governs whale and elephant societies in addition to hominoids, is already not "Darwinian" in the traditional sense. The last three modes have emerged with the genus homo, through the progressive extension of its life-cycle setups. The present framework is to be used heuristically, as a prism with which to separate the evolutionary spectrum of the constituent elements of human behavior. An example of such a behavioral evolutionary spectrum is presented in the conclusion, and is used to compare the present framework with those recently proposed by Maynard Smith and Szathmáry and by Foley.

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Johannes Nkosi and the Communist Party of South Africa: Images of "Blood River" and King Dingane in the Late 1920s–1930


History and Theory, Theme Issue 39 (December 2000), 111-132

In divided societies like South Africa, history, among other things, serves ideological purposes. The colonial encounter between King Dingane, the second Zulu king, who ruled from 1828 to 1840, and white settlers highlights this fact. The core of Afrikaner Nationalist historiography regarded the king as a treacherous, uncivilized barbarian. He was perceived to be an anti-white demagogue who was beyond redemption. But elsewhere, African nationalists and workers viewed the king as one of the original freedom fighters who resisted the tyranny of the land-grabbing white settlers and voortrekkers of the nineteenth century. Their interpretations of King Dingane's relationship with white settlers depict the latter as disrespectful imperialists and unscrupulous men, attempting to enrich themselves at the expense of the indigenous population. Accordingly, their interpretation of this encounter revolves around the land question in South Africa. This article discusses a case study regarding these issues. It is about the challenge mounted by African workers in the late 1920s and 1930 against the official celebration of December 16. This celebration honored the victory of the voortrekkers at the so-called battle of "Blood River" on December 16, 1838-hence the public holiday was once referred to as "Dingaan's Day." As a counter-commemoration of this day, African workers regarded the official celebrations as symbolizing the loss of their land and the passing of their freedom. As a result African workers aligned with the Communist Party of South Africa, and through the leadership skills of Johannes Nkosi, mounted vigorous protests and challenges against these celebrations by white South Africans. They staged protest marches and defiant anti-pass campaigns that emphasized the centrality of the land question in South Africa. They also paid tribute to their past, include King Dingane. Through their actions they imbued conscience in African workers throughout the country, hence the response of the state was brutal and culminated with the death of Johannes Nkosi in 1930.

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Paradigmatic versus Historical Thinking: The Case of Rabbinic Judaism


History and Theory 36 (October 1997), 353–377

The idea of history, with its rigid distinction between past and present and its careful sifting of connections from the one to the other, came quite late onto the scene of intellectual life. Both Judaism and Christianity for most of their histories have read the Hebrew Scriptures from within an other-than-historical framework. They found in Scripture's words paradigms of an enduring present, by which all things must take their measure; they possessed no conception whatsoever of the pastness of the past. Rabbinic Judaism invented an entirely new way to think about times past and to keep all time-past, present, and future-within a single framework. For that purpose, a model was constructed, consisting of selected events held to form a pattern that imposes order and meaning on the chaos of what happens, whether past or present or future. Time measured in the paradigmatic manner is time formulated by a free-standing, (incidentally) atemporal model, not appealing to the course of sun and moon, nor concerned with the metaphor of human life and its cyclicality. Not only so, but the paradigm obliterates distinctions between past, present, and future, between here and now and then and there. The past participates in the present, the present recapitulates the past, and the future finds itself determined, predetermined really, within the same free-standing structure comprised by God's way of telling time.

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The "Metaphor of Life": Herder's Philosophy of History and Uneven Developments in Late Eighteenth-Century Natural Sciences


History and Theory 38 (October 1999), 322-347

The origins of the evolutionary concept of history have normally been associated with the development of an organicist notion of society. The meaning of this notion, in turn, has been assumed as something perfectly established and clear, almost self-evident. This assumption has prevented any close scrutiny of it. As this article tries to show, the idea of "organism" that underlies the emergence of the evolutionary concept of history, far from being "self-evident," has an intricate history and underwent a number of radical and successive redefinitions from the mid-eighteenth century up to approximately 1830 (the heyday of Romanticism and the period in which the first modern "philosophies of history" took form). More specifically, this paper traces some of these transformations in order to contextualize and shed some new light on Herder's philosophy of history and the complex process of its inception-a process that was not concluded by the end of his intellectual career. As the article shows, Herder did not actually succeed in solving some key problems involved in an evolutionary concept of history. The difficulties he found were analogous to those that emerged at that very moment in the development of a dynamic, ontogenetical theory (that is, a theory of the embryo's transformation), and both were ultimately linked to the combination of some uneven developments produced in the natural sciences of that time. Herder's philosophy of history thus appears as a paradoxical (and highly unusual, seen from a epistemological point of view) case of a system of thought that formulates problems which it is still radically unable to solve, lacking the tools to devise a possible solution for them.

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The Nation as a Problem: Historians and the "National Question"


History and Theory 40 (October 2001), 324-346

How is it that the nation became an object of scholarly research? As this article intends to show, not until what we call the "genealogical view" (which assumes the "natural" and "objective" character of the nation) eroded away could the nation be subjected to critical scrutiny by historians. The starting point and the premise for studies in the field was the revelation of the blind spot in the genealogical view, that is, the discovery of the "modern" and "constructed" character of nations. Historians' views would thus be intimately tied to the "antigenealogical" perspectives of them. However, this antigenealogical view would eventually reveal its own blind spots. This paper traces the different stages of reflection on the nation, and how the antigenealogical approach would finally be rendered problematic, exposing, in turn, its own internal fissures.

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Hayden White (and the Content and the Form and Everyone Else) at the AHA


History and Theory, Theme Issue 36 (December 1997), 102-110

The special session at the January 1997 annual meeting of the American Historical Association honoring the achievement of Hayden White and examining the impact and influence of his work on the historical discipline was an enlightening experience, at least to this participant, in many more ways than had been planned or promised. The session itself, albeit fairly routine by the standard of such occasions, seemed to take on a metanarrative of its own as each of the speakers (not excluding the honoree who was present and participating) confidently spoke at length, proceeding from deep premises which bore no relation to any of the others. My own initial anticipation that this event would produce limited variations on a coherent theme-the impact of the linguistic turn and of narrative theory in particular on the practice and self-definition of academic history-turned gradually to rather disconcerted bemusement, especially when my turn came to listen to myself.

My previous engagement to report on the AHA session in a paper for the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University became an opportunity to confide some of my freshest reactions to the event in a fairly small and very select audience. Narrating the ephemeral metanarrative I perceived as spinning itself out over the blunter facts of the AHA occasion, turned out to be the inner topic of my Wesleyan paper (this present essay), not excluding the mysterious impulses of the audience and the existential atmosphere of the never to be forgotten Princess Ballroom.

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Hayden White: The Form of the Content


History and Theory 37 (May 1998), 162-172

Hayden White's perhaps richest and most profoundly argued book, The Content of the Form, touches many nerves in the American historical profession. The entirety of the book, from its premises through its most thoughtful exegeses of historical writing, insists that linguistic form is the primary carrier of content in historical writing, indeed, in historical knowledge. This insistence on a respectful and careful attention to the formal usages of nonfiction prose, truth-claiming language, goes well against the grain of American tastes. As de Tocqueville presciently and correctly predicted, when Americans take to literature in a serious way, they won't have much patience with precise matters of form. Hayden White's narrative theory has had uphill work to penetrate this pervasive indifference, especially among historians.

He has been joined in recent decades by Paul Ricoeur, whose Time and Narrative, beginning from different premises and a slightly different question, arrives at a sympathetic and complementary analysis of historical narrative. In spite of White's published hesitations about the political/philosophical tendencies of Ricoeur's work, I am convinced that their books are mutually supporting and, in an important cultural sense, belong together.

Altogether, however, I do feel that the main import and justification of this present essay must rest on my quite serious reading of Hayden White's best joke, a profound shaggy dog story about the historian monk of St. Gall.

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Clues, Margins, and Monads: The Micro-Macro Link in Historical Research


History and Theory 40 (October 2001), 347-359

This article discusses the new microhistory of the 1970s and 1980s in terms of the concept of exceptional typical, and contrasts the new microhistory to old microhistory, in which the relationship between micro and macro levels of phenomena was defined by means of the concepts of exceptionality and typicality. The focus of the essay is on Carlo Ginzburg's method of clues, Walter Benjamin's idea of monads, and Michel de Certeau's concept of margins. The new microhistory is also compared with methodological discussions in the social sciences. In the mid-1970s concepts like the micro-macro link or the microfoundations of macrotheory were introduced in sociology and economics. But these largely worked in terms of the concepts of typicality or exceptionality, and this has proved to be problematic. Only historians have developed concepts that escape these and the older definitions of the micro-macro relationship; indeed, the "new microhistory" can best be described in terms of the notion of "exceptional typical." The essay explores the meaning of this notion.

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On the Role of Mathematical Biology in Contemporary Historiography


History and Theory, Theme Issue 38 (December 1999), 101-120

This essay proposes that mathematical biology can be used as a fruitful exemplar for the introduction of scientific principles to history. After reviewing the antecedents of the application of mathematics to biology, in particular evolutionary biology, I describe in detail a mathematical model of cultural diffusion based on an analogy with population genetics. Subsequently, as a case study, this model is used to investigate the dynamics of the early modern European witch-crazes in Bavaria, England, Hungary and Finland. In the second part of the article, I sketch the methodological significance of this type of 'scientific history' and, in particular, I identify three lessons that mathematical biology can contribute to historiography. The first lesson is on the fundamental distinction between agent's purposes and structural social processes. I argue that mathematical modeling can be fruitfully applied to describe social processes, while agents' purposes ought to be addressed following an hermeneutic tradition. The second lesson is on the aim of mathematical modeling. Here I argue that the object of modeling, rather than being the prediction or retrodiction of events (a deductive-nomological approach), is the understanding of the factors involved in the dynamics of social processes (an analytic-descriptive approach). Finally, the third lesson is on the new understanding of science after the collapse of the standard view. In summary, while mathematical modeling can provide an extremely powerful approach to clarify the dynamics of certain macro-historical processes, scientific methods ought to be regarded as a complement, not a substitute, to classical historiography.

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History, Time, and Knowledge in Ancient India


History and Theory 38 (October 1999), 307-321

The lack of interest in history in ancient India has often been noted and contrasted with the situation in China and the West. Notwithstanding the vast body of Indian literature in other fields, there is a remarkable dearth of historical writing in the period before the Muslim conquest and an associated indifference to historiography. Various explanations have been offered for this curious phenomenon, some of which appeal to the supposed currency of certain Indian philosophical theories. This essay critically examines such "philosophical explanations."

I argue that it is not true that there was no history in ancient India, and it is not surprising that there was no developed historiography or scientific history. It is both true and surprising that there was no real importance attached to history in ancient India. An adequate philosophical explanation for this historical phenomenon, however, is not to be found in appeals to the influence of indigenous metaphysical theories about time and the self. A much more plausible philosophical explanation appeals instead to certain features of classical Indian epistemology.

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New Historicism: Postmodern Historiography between Narrativism and Heterology


History and Theory 39 (February 2000), 21-38

In recent discussions of the work of new historicist critics like Stephen Greenblatt and Louis Montrose, it has often been remarked that the theory of history underlying their reading practice closely resembles that of postmodern historiographers like Hayden White and Frank Ankersmit. Taking off from one such remark, the aim of the present article is twofold. First, I intend to provide a theoretical basis from which to substantiate the idea that new historicism can indeed be taken to be the literary-critical variant of what Frank Ankersmit has termed the "new historiography." In the second half of the article, this theoretical foundation will serve as the starting point of a further analysis of both the theory and practice of new historicism in terms of its distinctly postmodern historiographical project. I will argue that in order to fully characterize the new historicist reading method, we do well to distinguish between two variants of postmodern historicism: a narrativist one (best represented in the work of Michel Foucault) and a heterological one (of which Michel de Certeau's writings serve as a supreme example). A brief survey of the two methodological options associated with these variants (discursive versus psychoanalytical) is followed by an analysis of the work of the central representative of new historicism, Stephen Greenblatt. While the significant use of historical anecdotes in his work leaves unresolved the question to which of either approaches Greenblatt belongs, the distinction does serve a clear heuristic purpose. In both cases, it points to the dangerous spot where the new historicism threatens to fall prey to the evils of the traditional historicism against which it defined itself.

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"I Saw A Nightmare . . .": Violence and the Construction of Memory (Soweto, June 16, 1976)


History and Theory, Theme Issue 39 (December 2000), 23-44

The protests on June 16, 1976 of black schoolchildren in Soweto against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in their schools precipitated one of the most profound challenges to the South African apartheid state. These events were experienced in a context of violent social and political conflict. They were almost immediately drawn into a discourse that discredited and silenced them, manipulating meaning for ideological and political reasons with little regard for how language and its absence-silences-further violated those who had experienced the events. Violence, in its physical and discursive shape, forged individual memories that remain torn with pain, anger, distrust, and open questions; collective memories that left few spaces for ambiguity; and official or public histories tarnished by their political agendas or the very structures-and sources-that produced them. Based on oral histories and historical documents, this article discusses the collusion of violence and silence and its consequences. It argues that-while the collusion between violence and silence might appear to disrupt or, worse, destroy the ability of individuals to think historically-the individual historical actor can and does have the will to contest and engage with collective memory and official history.

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Coherence and Ambiguity in History


History and Theory 39 (May 2000), 167-180

This article is about the logic of the concept of "coherence" as used by historians to justify an argument. Despite its effectiveness in historical arguments, coherence is problematic for epistemologists and some theorists of history. The main purpose of this paper is to present some insights that bear upon the logical status of coherence. As will be demonstrated, this will also shed some light on the allegedly dubious epistemological position of coherence. In general I will argue that, logically seen, coherence is a property of a set of related beliefs which makes it possible to justify a choice out of different factually justifiable interpretations. Coherence disambiguates vague or ambiguous observations. As words lose their vagueness or ambiguity in contexts, so do contexts disambiguate historical facts. My argument will be based on some relatively recent findings about the cognitive processes underlying vision and reading. Research in the field of text linguistics is used to show what kinds of relationship exist between historical representations that might be considered to cohere.

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Can We Ascribe to Past Thinkers Concepts They Had No Linguistic Means to Express?


History and Theory 36 (February 1997), 15–31

This article takes a clear-cut case in which a historian (Alexander Koyré) ascribes to a writer (Galileo) a concept ("inertial mass") which neither the writer nor his contemporaries had the linguistic means to express. On the face of it the case may seem a violation of a basic methodological maxim in historiography: "avoid anachronistic ascriptions!" The aim of the article is to show that Koyré's ascription, and others of its kind, are legitimate; and that the methodological maxim should not be given the strict reading which some writers recommend. More specifically, the conceptual repertoire of historical figures need not be reconstructed solely in terms of the social and linguistic conventions of their time and place.

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Crossing the Line: Limits and Desire in Historical Interpretation


History and Theory 37 (February 1998), 40-68

This essay focuses on the relationship within western humanism between attitudes toward textual interpretation and views of the human self in an attempt to unsettle the dichotomy between humanist and antihumanist approaches to the past. It has three main parts. First, it uses Umberto Eco's recent reflections on the limits of interpretation to explore current debates about the aims of interpretation. In particular, it asks what it means to frame the problem of interpretation specifically as a problem of establishing limits. Given the many possible vocabularies to compare and evaluate competing hermeneutic approaches, what are the implications of adopting one that speaks in terms of limits, of an "in bounds" and an "out of bounds?" Second, the essay draws on the work of Donna Haraway and Stephanie Jed to argue that a discourse about interpretation that seeks to establish the limits of interpretation excludes as out of bounds precisely those methodological strategies that most effectively analyze the mutually sustaining relationship between assumptions about texts and assumptions about selves. Third, the essay explores the relationship between interpretation and subjectivity at one key historical moment to show how to move beyond the strict dichotomy between humanist and antihumanist assumptions.

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The Logic of Action: Indeterminacy, Emotion, and Historical Narrative


History and Theory, Theme Issue 40 (December 2001), 9-32

Modern social theory, by and large, has aimed at reducing the complexity of action situations to a set of manageable abstractions. But these abstractions, whether functionalist or linguistic, fail to grasp the indeterminacy of action situations.

Action proceeds by discovery and combination. The logic of action is serendipitous and combinative. From these characteristics, a number of consequences flow: The whole field of our intentions is engaged in each action situation, and cannot really be understood apart from the situation itself. In action situations we remain aware of the problems of categorization, including the dangers of infinite regress and the difficulties of specifying borders and ranges of categories. In action situations, attention is in permanent danger of being overwhelmed. We must deal with many features of action situations outside of attention; in doing so, we must entertain simultaneously numerous possibilities of action. Emotional expression is a way of talking about the kinds of possibilities we entertain. Expression and action have a rebound effect on attention. "Effort" is required to find appropriate expressions and actions, and rebound effects play a role in such effort, making it either easier or more difficult.

Recent theoretical trends have failed to capture these irreducible characteristics of action situations, and have slipped into a number of errors. Language is not rich in meanings or multivocal, except as put to use in action situations. The role of "convention" in action situations is problematic, and therefore one ought not to talk of "culture." Contrary to the assertions of certain theorists, actors do not follow strategies, except when they decide to do so. Actors do not "communicate," in the sense of exchanging information, except in specially arranged situations. More frequently, they intervene in the effortful management of attention of their interlocutors. Dialogue, that is, very commonly becomes a form of cooperative emotional effort.

From these considerations, it follows that the proper method for gaining social knowledge is to examine the history of action and of emotional effort, and to report findings in the form of narrative.

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An Apologia for Theoretical History


History and Theory 36 (October 1997), 336–352

Karl Popper's critique of theoretical history remains formidable but contains serious flaws. Popper held erroneous views about the practice of the natural sciences and created overly severe strictures for theoretical statements in the social sciences. General theory and general theoretical statements play a legitimate role in the social sciences. Merton has promoted middle-range theories and models and Lakatos multiple ontologies. One can answer Popper's criticisms of either the impossibility or triviality of long-term historical laws by searching for stable constellations of local or middle-range laws rather than a universal law. Moreover, the successful use in the social sciences of various types of scales of measurement rather than an absolute scale shows that quantitative analysis is possible in history. Investigators need to find the boundaries, the frameworks of feasibility, in which historical trends and laws operate. Popper's maximalism plays into the irrationalist trends that he himself deplored. If historical investigators and theoreticians set appropriate goals for theoretical history, they can practice their discipline responsibly and find meanings, if not a single meaning, in history.

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Art as Appearance: Two Comments on Arthur C. Danto's After the End of Art


History and Theory, Theme Issue 37 (December 1998), 102-114

In his latest book about art Arthur Danto claims that aesthetic appearance-visuality in the visual arts-has become more and more irrelevant for most of contemporary art. This essay first immanently critiques the distinction between the aesthetic and artistic properties underlying this claim. Danto's claim about the irrelevance of the aesthetic is not compatible with the spirit of his own writings: what Danto denies in After the End of Art has been a cornerstone of his theoretical work since The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, namely, that the aesthetic is indeed both an elementary and a defining property of art. Examples ranging from Duchamp's Fountain to a recent installation by the Art & Language group are discussed to support this critique. Second, the essay defends Danto's contention that developing a "definition of art" is a sensible enterprise. But it turns out that Danto's (self-ascribed) "essentialism" concerning art has no essentialist implications in any specific sense.

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Fixing History: Narratives of World War I in France


History and Theory, Theme Issue 36 (December 1997), 111-130

For nearly a century, the French have entertained an unshakable conviction that their ability to recognize themselves-to know and transmit the essence of Frenchness-depended on the teaching of the history of France. In effect, history was a discourse on France, and the teaching of history-"la pédagogie centrale du citoyen"-the means by which children were constituted as heirs and carriers of a common collective memory that made them not only citizens, but family. In this essay, I examine the rhetorical and conceptual effects on history writing that emerge out of this preoccupation with the elaboration of a continuous, coherent national identity. Focusing on schoolbooks, I begin by looking at the dominant, nearly hegemonic model of French history created by Ernest Lavisse in the 1890s-a model informed by the dream of a unified, unitary French nation, embodied in and articulated through the history of France-and at the disruption of this paradigm in the aftermath of the Great War. I then consider a text written in the 1990s specifically to repudiate the kind of nationalist narratives that prevailed for most of this century-a new supranational history of Europe. I argue that, in their different experiments with fixing history, both Lavisse and the contemporary textbook authors did not so much repair a deficient history as produce a historical fixation, creating mythicized histories that are complete, closed, predictable, and at bottom ahistorical. Finally, I turn to a recent World War I novel, A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot, in order to suggest ways in which the narrative strategies of a fiction writer may be useful to historians in thinking about a different kind of historical project.

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Truth or Lies? Selective Memories, Imagings, and Representations of Chief Albert John Luthuli in Recent Political Discourses


History and Theory, Theme Issue 39 (December 2000), 69-85

Individuals, organizations, and institutions adopt prominent people as political symbols for a variety of reasons. They then produce conflicting memories and images of their chosen symbols. In this article we argue that multiple representations of celebrated public figures should not only be viewed in terms of a choice between "truths" and "lies." Using the case of Chief Albert Luthuli, the president of the African National Congress from 1952 to 1967, we show that secrets and silences about aspects of his political life would make it difficult for anyone to establish the veracity of competing memories which have been produced around his name since his death in 1967. We argue that many "Luthulis" were produced for different purposes and at different times during this period. We therefore suggest that to understand the motives for the making of the various images of Luthuli we need to explore in some depth the contexts in which they were made.

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Between Discourse and Experience: Agency and Ideas in the French Pre-Revolution


History and Theory, Theme Issue 40 (December 2001), 116-142

Experience has recently reemerged as an important analytical category for historians of the Old Regime and the French Revolution. Reacting against the perceived excesses of discourse analysis, which made political language independent of any social determinants, certain post-revisionists are now seeking to contextualize political language by relating it to the experience of those who use it. Political agency, in these analyses, is understood to be the effect of particular formative experiences. This article suggests that the search for an experiential antidote to discourse is misconceived because it perpetuates an untenable dichotomy between thought and reality. Access to the phenomenon of historical agency should be pursued not through experience or discourse but through the category of consciousness, since the make-up of the subject's consciousness determines how he/she engages the world and decides to attempt changing it. After a brief discussion of an important study that exemplifies both the allure and the functionality of the notion of experience, Timothy Tackett's Becoming a Revolutionary, the article focuses on the evolving political consciousness of a man who became a revolutionary agitator in 1789, J.-M.-A. Servan. Analysis of his writings between 1769 and 1789 shows that the way in which his perspective was constructed, rather than the lessons of experience per se, determined the shape of his revolutionary intentions in 1789.

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Corrigenda to the printed version of this article:

p. 116, third line from end of abstract, should read: "... J.-M.-A. Servan. Analysis of his writings between 1769 and 1789 shows that the way in ..."

p. 118, note 6, line 3: Labour History no. 70

p. 129, line 11: there should be a comma after "priorities"

p. 130, first full paragraph, line 6: new note 42a inserted after "…proper characteristics of a citizen."42a

42a. For more on the idioms of eighteenth-century moralism, see Sarah Maza, "Luxury, Morality, and Social Change: Why There Was No Middle-Class Consciousness in Prerevolutionary France," Journal of Modern History 69 (1997), 199-229.

p. 131, line 4, should read: "…and virtue represented distinct moral principles appropriate to different political…"

p. 131, line 8, should read: "…select . . . the time from Charles the Wise [Charles V] to the brave Francis I."

p. 132, lines 4-5 should read: "…In the later text, a Discours sur le progrés des connoissances humaines (Discourse on the Progress of Human Knowledge) presented to the Academy of …"

p. 132, lines 8-9, should read: "…Good examples and conscious emulation of those examples still stood out as indispensable ingredients of the moral education of the citizen, but Servan …"

p. 135, fourth and third lines up from the bottom should read: "…observed the "ancient and eternal forms of integrity, public virtue, and social justice," the nobility would happily find itself liberated from the domination of …"

p. 136, line 17 should read: "…the "apprenticeship of the citizen" had evidently come to an end, and members …"

p. 138, seventh line up from section III should read: "…as a disappointing subversion of a unifying patriotic program, he exercised …"

p. 138, note 73, lines 3 and 4 should read: "…d'Antraigues, Discours prononcé par le comte d'Antraigues, député aux Etats-Généraux dans la Chambre de la noblesse le 11 mai 1789 (n. p., n. d.)."

p. 139, last sentence of first full paragraph should read: "The concept of discourse is insufficiently agile to shed light on the inner operations of Servan's mind, and it fails to capture the moral determination that inspired his work both as a thinker and as a political agent."

Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory Twenty-five Years Later


History and Theory 40 (may01), 241-260

This article probes some of the issues The Great War and Modern Memory raises today, whether by Fussell himself, by critics at the time of its original publication, or by rereading the book anew now, in the context of a veritable renaissance in the study of World War I and of the revolution effected by the "literary turn" in historical study. I situate Fussell's book against the backdrop of three foundational works or points of view in cultural history that came to the forefront after 1975. My purpose is not to chide Fussell for failing to anticipate the future directions of the cultural history of war, but rather to show how his work fits into the development of that history.

I argue that The Great War and Modern Memory itself became a lieu de mémoire or "site of memory" of the Great War. But like many very successful works, Fussell's book became famous not exclusively or even primarily because of its originality, but because of its ability to reformulate or reinscribe pre-existing ways of understanding. As critic and as veteran, Fussell reasserted the "evidence of experience" as the cornerstone of war writing in the twentieth century. In addition, some of the impact of The Great War and Modern Memory can be explained by the way it supported the most venerable narrative explanation of the Great War, that of tragedy.

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The Insistent Fringe: Moving Images and Historical Consciousness


History and Theory, Theme Issue 36 (December 1997), 4-20

Using the form of cinematic montage, this essay explores the nature of historical consciousness in a mass-mediated culture where historical discourse takes the form of both showing and saying, moving images and written words. The title draws upon and argues with Roland Barthes's critique of the duplicity of the "insistent fringes" that supposedly reduce and naturalize "Roman-ness" to fringed hair in popular historical film. Barthes presumes a "certainty" in such a cinematic image, and hence deems it mythological-that is, "it goes without saying." Countering Barthes with Walter Benjamin, one might argue that the "insistent fringe" is insistently historical and constitutes, in its insistence, a "dialectical image": a site and sight full of contradictions and open to excavation. That is, it concretizes historiographic saying by showing. Neither historiographic saying nor showing are privileged in medias res-in a culture saturated in images and textuality, in competing modes of expression each of which has its limits. Historical consciousness is sparked and constituted from both showing and saying. Indeed, the "insistent fringe" is precisely not clear-cut-and, if it insists on anything, it is its serrated nature, its articulation as a limit that differs from, but is constituted by, the elements of the two distinct domains which it both separates and connects. Similarly, there is a dynamic, functional, and hardly clear-cut relation that exists between the mythological histories wrought by Hollywood cinema (and other visual arts) and the academic histories written by scholars. They co-exist, compete, and cooperate in a contingent, heteroglossic, and always shifting ratio-thus constituting the "rationality" of contemporary historical consciousness.

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The Unimaginable


History and Theory, Theme Issue 37 (December 1998), 115-126

Arthur Danto advocates the thesis that we cannot imagine the art or artwork of the future. This thesis is motivated primarily by his Hegelian conception of history and secondarily by his holistic conception of art, which is informed by Wittgenstein. At first glance the thesis seems to conflict with Danto's second thesis that anything (any object) can be a work of art. Danto's solution to this problem is not very convincing. A more promising approach can be found in Kant's aesthetics and especially in his concept of genius.

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Evolutionary Theory of History


History and Theory, Theme Issue 38 (December 1999), 33-51

Several attempts have been made recently to apply Darwinian evolutionary theory to the study of cultural change and social history. The essential elements in such a theory are variable components and their selective retention during the processes of replication and transmission. Location of these component "units" in the semantic structure of cognition provides the individual psychological basis for an evolutionary theory of history. Selection operates on both the level of cognition and on its "phenotypic" expression in action in relation to individual preferred sources of psychological satisfaction. Social power comprises the principal selective forces within the sociocultural environment. Sociocultural evolution takes place both as a result of the unintended consequences of action and through the struggle of individuals and groups in pursuit of opposing interests. The implications for historiography are methodological in that evolutionary theory of history sharpens the focus of explanatory situational analysis, and interpretive in that it provides a new metanarrative for the understanding of historical change.

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Reenactment, Fantasy, and the Paranoia of History: Oliver Stone's Docudramas


History and Theory, Theme Issue 36 (December 1997), 64-79

In the late 1980s and 1990s, American popular culture has been increasingly rife with conspiracy narratives of recent historical events. Among cultural producers, filmmaker Oliver Stone has had a significant impact on popular understanding of American culture in the late twentieth century through a series of docudramas which reread American history through the lens of conspiracy theory and paranoia. This paper examines the films of Oliver Stone-in particular Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, and Nixon-asking why they have achieved popularity and brought about catharsis, why they are the subject of attack, and why it is useful to look beyond the debate about truth and falsehood that has surrounded them. It analyzes the ways in which Stone's status as a Vietnam veteran allowed Platoon to be accorded the authenticity of survivor discourse, whereas JFK and Nixon were subject to almost hysterical attack, not only because of Stone's assertions of conspiracy, but also because of his cinematic style of tampering with famous images. Taking these films as its point of departure, this paper examines the role of images in the construction of history, the form of the docudrama, the reenactment of historical images, fantasies of history, and ways in which paranoia is part of the practice of citizenship.

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The Canon of the History of Political Thought: Its Critique and a Proposed Alternative


History and Theory 39 (May 2000), 147-166

After a brief review of the origins and the nature of the received canon of the history of political thought, this essay discusses the critiques that have been leveled at it over the past decades. Two major lines of critique are distinguished: 1. The democratic critique, focusing on the omission of "plebeian," non-Western, and female voices from the traditional canon, as well as the failure of the canon to discuss issues such as popular radicalism, patriarchal rule, and the politics of empire. 2. The methodological critique in which the canon is deconstructed as an anachronistic, "Whiggish" enterprise, and its validity as history is questioned against the background of "history after the linguistic turn." The essay examines the consequences of both lines of criticism for some key concepts in the history of political thought, as well as for the coherence and the structure of the traditional canon. It calls attention to the paradox that, while virtually all elements of the canon have been subjected to incisive critique, the canon itself has so far survived relatively unscathed in the major textbooks and in the way the subject is taught in universities the world over. In the final section the question is raised what a new, reconstructed overall history of political thought might look like, and some preliminary suggestions are offered towards a revision of the canon that would satisfy both the democratic and the methodological critique.

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The Cage of Nature: Modernity's History in Japan


History and Theory 40 (February 2001), 16-36

"The Cage of Nature" focuses on the concept of nature as a way to rethink Japanese and European versions of modernity and the historical tropes that distance "East" from "West." This essay begins by comparing Japanese political philosopher Maruyama Masao and his contemporaries, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. Both sets of authors define modernity as the moment when humanity overcomes nature, but Maruyama longs for this triumph while Horkheimer and Adorno deplore its consequences. Maruyama insists that Japan has failed to attain the freedom promised by modernity because it remains in the thrall of nature defined in three ways: as Japan's deformed past, as the mark of Japan's tragic difference from "the West," and as Japan's accursed sensuality, shackling it to uncritical bodily pleasures. In short, Maruyama sees Japan as trapped in the cage of nature.

My argument is that Maruyama's frustration arises from the trap set by modern historiography, which simultaneously traces the trajectory of modernity from servile Nature to freedom of Spirit and at the same time bases the identity of the non-Western world on its closeness to nature. In other words, nature represents both the past and the East, an impossible dilemma for an Asian nationalist desirous of liberty. By revising our historical narratives to take into account the ways in which Western modernity continued to engage versions of nature, it becomes possible to reposition Japan and "the East" within modernity's history rather than treating them as the Other.

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The Role of Logic and Aesthetics in Constructing Narrative Wholes in Historiography


History and Theory 38 (May 1999), 198-210

The construction of narrative wholes in historiography involves more than logic, but aesthetics as well. It is imagination as well as logic which generates the more or less concretized images constituting the background onto which the historian, "playing" with basic information, imposes some content and portrays some event by means of a narrative. These concretized images incorporate an aesthetic sense of order. Historical narratives also employ general terms which "bind together" the various elements of basic information which, when linked together, form a historical narrative; these general concepts also invoke an aesthetic sense in virtue of which their identity is formed. In both these ways the aesthetic dimension is crucial in the formation of historical wholes.

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The Future of the Philosophy of Historiography


History and Theory 40 (February 2001), 37-56

This article argues that the perception of decline among philosophers of history reflects the diffused weak academic status of the discipline, as distinct from the booming research activity and demand for philosophy of history that keeps pace with the growth rate of publications in the philosophies of science and law. This growth is justified and rational because the basic problems of the philosophy of history, concerning the nature of historiographical knowledge and the metaphysical assumptions of historiography, have maintained their relevance. Substantive philosophy of history has an assured popularity but is not likely to win intellectual respectability because of its epistemic weaknesses. I suggest focusing on problems that a study of historiography can help to understand and even solve, as distinct from problems that cannot be decided by an examination of historiography, such as the logical structure of explanation (logical positivism) and the relation between language and reality (post-structuralism). In particular, following Quine's naturalized epistemology I suggest placing the relation between evidence and historiography at the center of the philosophy of historiography. Inspired by the philosophy of law, I suggest there are three possible relations between input (evidence) and output in historiography: determinism, indeterminism, and underdeterminism. An empirical examination of historiographical agreement, disagreement, and failure to communicate may indicate which relation holds at which parts of historiography. The historiographical community seeks consensus, but some areas are subject to disagreements and absence of communication; these are associated with historiographical schools that interpret conflicting models of history differently to fit their evidence. The reasons for this underdetermination of historiography by evidence needs to be investigated further.

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Human Agency and Impersonal Determinants in Historical Causation: A Response to David Lindenfeld


History and Theory 38 (October 1999), 300-306

Lindenfeld's proposed reclassification of causes-offered in lieu of a chaos theory applicable to history-yields paradoxical results when applied to the developments that installed Hitler in power, since these would have to rank as "constraining" rather than "empowering" because of his lack of control over them. The "principle of sensitive dependence," while an admirable aspiration, proves a counsel of perfection beyond reach of the historian when applied to those same events. As to historical explanations in terms of structural, impersonal determinants, these remain ascendant, to the neglect of human agency. Narrative history, which alone can account for both remote and immediate causes, continues to be unfashionable. Explanations in terms of structures and impersonal forces, which can only imply causation, are attractive because they offer historians wide scope for exercise of erudition and arrive at determinants that appear larger and more powerful than mere actions of humans. Where profound developments are to be explained, such interpretations conform to the assumption that their causes must have been profound. Yet countless turning-points in history, including Hitler's installation in power, were decisively shaped by acts of a few persons. The frustrating difficulty of accounting for individual behavior contributes to the appeal of impersonal, structural explanations. These tend, however, toward a deterministic view of the past which awakens the impression that what happened had to happen. That obscures the openness of past situations and rules out assignment of personal responsibility to individuals, who seem mere pawns of forces beyond their control. A remedy for such deterministic tendencies lies in counterfactual analysis, which, by drawing attention to feasible, but unrealized, alternatives to what happened, can convey the open-ended qualities of past situations and the importance of contingency.

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Collingwood's "Lost" Manuscript of The Principles of History


History and Theory 36 (February 1997), 32–62

In his edition of The Idea of History Knox made use of parts of Collingwood's unfinished manuscript of The Principles of History, written during a voyage through the Dutch East Indies in 1938–1939. This manuscript, however, is not among Collingwood's manuscripts, available at the Bodleian Library at Oxford since 1978. It was therefore considered lost, but it has recently been discovered in the Electronic Abstracts of Oxford University Press. Originally, it consisted of ninety pages containing finished chapters on "Evidence," "Action," and "Nature and Action." The first chapter, the manuscript text of which has not been recovered, was included by Knox in The Idea of History under the title "Historical Evidence." He also made use of parts of chapter III. Before dealing with the content of The Principles of History, I discuss two questions: why Knox did not publish the complete manuscript, in spite of the fact that Collingwood explicitly gave his authorization for its publication, and why the manuscript was not finished, in spite of the fact that Collingwood himself placed a high value upon it. The Principles of History contains much that is informative and clarifying for some much debated and controversial aspects of Collingwood's philosophy of history. Examples are his discussion of the status of a philosophy of history, the interpretation of evidence, the nature of human action, the role of emotions, what is meant by the thought-side of history, the difference between history and biography, the relation between history and nature, and the autonomy of historical thought. The manuscript is of interest, too, because of the insight it offers into the way The Idea of History was edited by Knox. It makes it clear how Knox manipulated the text when editing the sections on "History and Freedom" and on "Hegel and Marx": in the latter he deleted an important paragraph, while in both he sometimes made changes in Collingwood's very words.

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The Reception of Hayden White


History and Theory 37 (May 1998), 143-161

Evaluation of the influence of Hayden White on the theory of history is made difficult by his preference for the essay form, valued for its experimental character, and by the need to find comparable data. A quantitative study of citations of his work in English and foreign-language journals, 1973–1993, reveals that although historians were prominent among early readers of Metahistory, few historical journals reviewed White's two subsequent collections of essays and few historians-except in Germany-cited them. Those historians who did tended still to cite Metahistory and often the parts of it devoted specifically to nineteenth-century historians.

Literary critics, on the other hand, were relatively late to discover White, but during the "narrative turn" of the 1970s and 1980s his work was important for students of the novel and the theater. Recognition of it was especially marked in Spanish-speaking countries and in Germany.

As a result, salient themes of White's later work-the ideological and political import of narrativization, the "historical sublime," and writing in the "middle voice"-have largely gone unremarked by historians and philosophers. Both these groups have tended to be irritated by White's bracketing of questions of historical epistemology; some have accused him of effacing the line between fiction and history, while White's numerous literary readers have generally applauded his tendencies in this direction. White however has consistently maintained that there is a difference, although not the one conventionally postulated. His exploration of writing in the "middle voice" brings his work full circle, in that it promises a "modernist" realism appropriate for representing the "sublime" events of our century.

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Telling More: Lies, Secrets, and History


History and Theory, Theme Issue 39 (December 2000), 11-22

This essay argues that secrets and lies are not forms of withholding information but forms by which information is valorized. Lies are constructed: what is to be lied about, what a lie is to consist of, how it is to be told, and whom it is to be told to, all reveal a social imaginary about who thinks what and what constitutes credibility. Secrets are negotiated: continual decisions about whom to tell, how much to tell, and whom not to tell describe social worlds, and the shape and weight of interactions therein. All of this makes lies and secrets extraordinarily rich historical sources. We might not see the truth distorted by a lie or the truth hidden by a secret, but we see the ideas and imaginings by which people disclose what should not be made public, and how they should carry out concealing one narrative with another. Such insights involve a step back from the project of social history, in which an inclusive social narrative is based on experience and individuals' ability to report it with some reliability, and suggests that historians need to look at social imaginings as ways to understand the ideas and concerns about which people lie and with which people construct new narratives that are not true. The study of secrets, however, links the study of social imaginings with the project of social history, as the valorization of information that results in the continual negotiation and renegotiation of secrets shows individuals and publics imagining the experiences labeled as secret because of the imagined power of a specific version of events.

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Toward a Received History of the Holocaust


History and Theory, Theme Issue 36 (December 1997), 21-43

In this article, I examine both the problem of so-called postmodern history as it relates to the Holocaust and suggest the ways that Saul Friedlander's recent work successfully mediates between the somewhat overly polemicized positions of "relativist" and "positivist" history. In this context, I find that in his search for an adequately self-reflexive historical narrative for the Holocaust, Hayden White's proposed notion of "middle-voicedness" may recommend itself more as a process for eyewitness writers than as a style for historians after the fact. From here, I look at the ways Saul Friedlander's reflections on the historian's voice not only mediate between White's notions of the ironic mode and middle-voicedness, but also suggest the basis for an uncanny history in its own right: an anti-redemptory narrative that works through, yet never actually bridges, the gap between a survivor's "deep memory" and historical narrative.

For finally, it may be the very idea of "deep memory" and its incompatibility to narrative that constitutes one of the central challenges to Holocaust historiography. What can be done with what Friedlander has termed "deep memory" of the survivor, that which remains essentially unrepresentable? Is it possible to write a history that includes some oblique reference to such deep memory, but which leaves it essentially intact, untouched and thereby deep? In this section, I suggest, after Patrick Hutton, that "What is at issue here is not how history can recover memory, but, rather, what memory will bequeath to history." That is, what shall we do with the living memory of survivors? How will it enter (or not enter) the historical record? Or to paraphrase Hutton again, "How will the past be remembered as it passes from living memory to history?" Will it always be regarded as so overly laden with pathos as to make it unreliable as documentary evidence? Or is there a place for the understanding of the witness, as subjective and skewed as it may be, for our larger historical understanding of events?

In partial answer to these questions, I attempt to extend Friedlander's insights toward a narrow kind of history-telling I call "received history"-a double-stranded narrative that tells a survivor-historian's story and my own relationship to it. Such a narrative would chart not just the life of the survivor-historian itself but also the measurable effect of the tellings-both his telling and mine-on my own life's story. Together, they would compose a received history of the Holocaust and its afterlife in the author's mind-my "vicarious past."

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Rejoinder to a Postmodernist


History and Theory 39 (May 2000), 201-209

This article, a defense of realism and representationalism in history against the postmodernist philosophy of language, is a critical rejoinder to Keith Jenkins's reply to my earlier essay in this journal in 1999 on postmodernism and historiography. Beginning with some remarks on the relationship between philosophy and historiography, this article goes on to note some of the weaknesses in postmodernist Jenkins's discussion of realism, representationalism, Richard Rorty, and Jacques Derrida's well-known dictum that there is nothing outside the text. It also considers Jenkins's talk about emancipation and the end of history and shows why it cannot be taken seriously. The article's conclusion is that postmodernism has nothing to contribute to the understanding of history as a form of thought or a body of knowledge.

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History, the Referent, and Narrative:  Reflections on Postmodernism Now


History and Theory 38 (February 1999), 1-24

This essay surveys the present position of postmodernism with respect to the effect of its ideas upon historiography. For this purpose it looks at a number of writings by historians that have been a response to postmodernism including the recently published collection of articles, The Postmodern History Reader. The essay argues that, in contrast to scholars in the field of literary studies, the American historical profession has been much more resistant to postmodernist doctrines and that the latters' influence upon the thinking and practice of historians is not only fading but increasingly destined to fade. The essay also presents a critical discussion of the current philosophy of postmodernism in its bearing upon historiography, directed chiefly against its claim that the world has undergone an epochal transition from the modern to a postmodern age; its theory of language and linguistic idealism; its opposition to historical realism and denial of the actuality of the past as a possible object of reference; and its theory of historical narrative as unconstrained fictional construction. This discussion includes a consideration of the work of postmodernist thinkers such as J.-F. Lyotard, of the recent books by David Roberts and Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr. which espouse a postmodernist theory of history, and of the narrativist theory of Hayden White. The essay also notes some of the reasons for postmodernism's appeal; and while it does not deny that postmodernist philosophy may have served a useful purpose in provoking historians to be more self-critical and aware of their presuppositions and procedures, it maintains that its skeptical and politicized view of historical inquiry is deeply mistaken, out of accord with the way historians themselves think about their work, and incapable of providing an understanding of historiography as a form of thought engaged in the attainment of knowledge and understanding of the human past.

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Ankersmit's Postmodernist Historiography: The Hyperbole of "Opacity"


History and Theory 37 (October 1998), 330-346

Ankersmit's articulation of a postmodern theory of history takes seriously both the strengths of traditional historicism and the right of historians to decide what makes sense for disciplinary practice. That makes him an exemplary interlocutor. Ankersmit proposes a theory of historical "representation" which radicalizes the narrative approach to historiography along the lines of poststructuralist textualism. Against this postmodernism but invoking some of his own arguments, I defend the traditional historicist position. I formulate criticisms of the theory of reference entailed in his notion of "narrative substance," of his master analogy of historiography with modern painting, and finally of his characterization of historical hermeneutics. In each case I find him guilty of the hyperbole which he himself cautions against. While it is true that historical narratives cannot be taken to be transparent, in taking them to be opaque Ankersmit puts himself in an untenable position. Finally, Ankersmit seeks to buttress his theoretical case by an interpretation of the new cultural historical texts of authors like Davis and Ginzburg. While this is a concreteness heartily to be welcomed in philosophers of history, I cannot find his construction of this new school's work plausible.

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Ideology, Semiotics, and Clifford Geertz: Some Russian Reflections


History and Theory 40 (February 2001), 57-73

This article, written by a Russian cultural historian, analyzes the concept of "ideology" in the work of Clifford Geertz. and his role in understanding the figurative nature of ideology as a cultural system. The author compares Geertz's semiotic approach to culture with thesemiotics of culture developed by Russian theorists, particularly Yuri Lotman, showing the convergence and divergence of the two differentnational traditions. This understanding of the nature and functions of ideology opens new possibilities for discussing the tortured relations of ideology and literature, showing the way fiction can affect the formation of ideological systems and influence practical politics. The analysis is illustrated by examples from Russian political life of the 1990s, when revolutionary changes demanded new sets of ideological metaphors that in their turn shaped the direction of events.

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