German Historical Institute London

17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ
United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0)20 - 7309 2050
Fax: +44 (0)20 - 7309 2055 / 7404 5573

URI: https://www.ghil.ac.uk

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ICAS

Mission and Research

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.

Such processes can be studied at four levels: First, at the level at which history is linked to the politics of spatialization and re-territorialization. While the making of nation-states has required the subordination of regional voices, the political assertion of the regions has often entailed an attack on nationalist master narratives by means of alternative ‘indigenous’ historiographies. Second, in relation to race and ethnic communities. The constitution of race relations through the writing of race into history, the ways race is represented, naturalized and made normative, and the way the anti-racist struggle has been ex- pressed in the attempt to de-racialize history are issues which open up many comparative perspectives on the relationship between historiography and the political. Third, in relation to the political assertion and demands for recognition of oppressed castes and ethnic and religious minorities. Their attempts to be included in the nation often lead to the rewriting of existing dominant narratives, thereby connecting political struggles with histories of representation. Finally, the close relationship between the histories and politics of ‘aboriginals’ (e.g. in Australia/ New Zealand/US) or Adivasis (India) provides a similarly promising area to study the mutual constitution of history and the political: the assertion of their rights and their entry into the political sphere has invariably involved battles over their respective histories.

The module will concentrate primarily on three areas of inquiry: (a) controversial representations of history in textbooks; (b) the use of specific historical master narratives in films (historical documentaries etc.) and public debates on historical films; (c) heritage politics in the context of colonial rule and postcolonial nation-building. In all these three areas India has been at the centre of recent international debate on ‘history as a political category’. Locating this module in India, therefore, connects it not only to an extremely lively research environment, but also to exciting ongoing public debates on ‘the public life of history’.
 

 

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