TM1 – History as a Political Category

Module Outline:

Over the ‘long twentieth century’ issues of politics and power have inevitably mediated history writing, and the politics of interpretations has been entangled in larger political conflicts. If history helps constitute identities (of nations, races etc.), rethinking and rewriting histories refashions those identities. Analysing how the rethinking of history reconstitutes the political will offer several productive and novel perspectives on the constitution and discursive power of the political.

TM 1 research topics:
1) History and the Politics of Identity and Recognition: In the context of new conceptual frameworks arising from gender, race and ethnic assertions and the rise of identitarian and subaltern politics, demands for recognition are a marked feature of twentieth-century metamorphoses of the political. Through workshops, conferences and a research project on heresies, and in dialogue with other ICAS modules, Indian and German institutional collaborations TM1 will continue to analyse how such demands feed into issues of adequate historical representation, in textbooks, in vernacular histories and other media and institutional sites. It will attend to the types of historical evidence and evidence construction arising from specific post-conflict contexts and specific institutions of transitional justice (truth commissions), legal tribunals and similar, often conflicted, sites of negotiation of historical truth.
2) The Popular’ as a Political Category and the Writing of History: We seek to explore how the concept of ‘the popular’ is constructed, how diverse actors claim to speak to and for ‘the people’ and try to inscribe their narratives of the past into the domain of history, thus shaping the relationship between professional and non-academic/public history.  Competing narrations of the past provide alternative frameworks to understand political negotiations beyond, but not necessarily excluding, the nation state, and offer a more open-ended exploration of how different social classes, groups and religious formations narrate and experience history, as in the ongoing public debates on professional and mytho-religious interpretations of the past in India. The exploratory project on Selling history: tourist guides, bazaar histories, and the politics of the past will be further developed into a network of scholars from ICAS (Wurzburg) and outside who are working on a diverse range of sites where historical knowledge, often informed by religious or other forms of identitarian markers is produced and constitutes the changing political in different ways at different sites. The planned project on heresies in history and an intermodular conference with TM 4 will also explore the category of the popular.
3) Transformations of Democracy and the Writing of History: During the long twentieth century processes of democratisation (and globalisation) had a profound impact on academic historiography, stressing the public role history would serve. The module will explore the longer history of history as a discipline, the systems of patronage and professionalisation that have defined its career in a transnational and comparative framework. It will focus on the development of academic history in relation to the political, exploring institutional forms, protocols and practices in the university, in publishing, and contemporary online initiatives. We will also explore how the discipline expanded through diverse forms of writing and how different types of associational life constituted key networks and resources as well as zones of contest and patronage. We are further interested to study changes in the discipline that have occurred in its production through the different linguistic initiatives and translation practices used to produce the national, the regional and the local, focusing on the vernacular productions and contestations of knowledge.
4) Metamorphoses of the Political and the politics of archives and memorialisation: The metamorphoses of the political and the various forms of representing the past are partially linked through the practice and politics of archiving. The processes of documenting and preserving memories of people or events involve state and bureaucratic activities, social and political movements, truth commissions and legal adjudications of community histories and rights, oral histories, and a range of often non-professional collections. TM1 will engage in the international debate on archiving and practices of memorialisation, especially in relation to novel sites of such practices.
5) The Politics of the Production, Circulation and Reception of History: TM1 acknowledges the need to understand the way history is produced, the material forms through which it is composed and circulated, and the way it is accessed and received through a variety of media technologies. Research into these dimensions engages the particular force of the past in its cognitive, perceptual and affective registers. Such material configurations of the historical reach different publics in various ways, or acquire a public edge. Here, we attend to the rich discussion which has emerged from the field of book, film and media history to encourage research on the infrastructures and technologies that define the media artefact, and the way such mediation impacts the political. The pilot project on Objects, Media Practices, Aesthetics and Politics, already begun, will continue in 2018 and thereafter in close inter-modular cooperation with the new module TM7, with which a joint conference is planned for 2022.

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