Friday, July 20, 2007

Therapeutic aspect of hisory

{I]t's not particularly illuminating, historically speaking , to know simply that I stole a car; what would be interesting would be to offer some explanation for that anomalous behavior---to construct some sort in which that theft made sense, where I continued to appear as a reasonably coherent character, and the past seemed to re-acquire some meaning. That sort of story might have some use in relation to the future--my future and that of penitently vulnerable car-owners. And even in that very simple example , the point, surely, is that there's no one story that will tell it all---no single standpoint from which a definitive history can be "truthfully written.....It's not some hypothetical 'essence of a supposedly 'truthful past that matters, but rather what we do with it---how we 'em-plot" it (making our story tragic or comic or satiric, or whatever)l and that depends on what it's for.
page 110
..we are invited to consider a page on which is inscribed a random pattern of dots. ...Once we've identified that face....we have succeeded in making sense of what's in front of us....But the corollary , of course, the exclusion of a host of other possibilities. page 112

This is a good model for explaing what can be constructed based on given facts.

when forced to recognize that we too will soon be past, we may be more inclined to ascribe a value to that past and assert that some consideration and care is due to that past. page 116

History is thus revealed again as having a therapeutic function, in that it's taken to respond to every one's demands to have their memories taken care of. And that can be the case at both personal and public level. page 117

That narrative , not something fixed..but is itself constantly revised and renewed, as we continue to respond to and adapt to changing circumstance. page 119

So history is about what it means and it could mean to be me, Japanese, Human beings, etc and that question makes sense against the changing background.

As we lose those geographical and racial 'others' of whom we previously made use, we many need now to seek chronological 'others'--others in the past , others past people and values , in contrast with whom and with which we continue to define our selves. And in that case, we need history to provide us with models, not so much to emulate as to repudiate----models to contrast with which we can see what we are and should be.....
It's easy enough to to accept evidence and to believe witnesses from the past that confirm our beliefs and expectations, consolidate our definitions of what's 'obvious' or 'common sense' .....It requires a rethinking of the past and of what would have been possible in that past; for by opening up such possibilities fro the, , we make them possibilities for now---for us now in the present. reading the conditions of the possibility of that future into the past and history thus becomes, once more, a path to a more hopeful future......The whole modernist goal of stable personal personal and public identity , for all its comforting securities, has been replaced by such recognition of diversity---such openness to difference page 121

The 'popular' way of strand of history in the United States is represented by the work of Ken Burns....
....his particular recasting of American history has come to play a central role and vital role in shaping the public sense of who we have been and who we are
page 138

Burns' histories don't deny such evils in the past as slavery; indeed , as Harlan claim, they forces 'white Americans to accept their own complicity'.But that acceptance is not doomed to lead to negativity, but is to be seen on the contrary as a prerequisite for liberation. For Burns, what is to be emphasized in history---what it's for ----is its 'redemptive possibles' ....'how we mean to live but do not yet live. page 140

Just as a story is used in the therapy to help people to form new possiblity, new relations with others, hi-story can function that way.
"What is History for" Beverley Southgate

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