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Archive for the ‘Thoughts on Active History’ Category

I recently stumbled across a sheet of paper I picket up at a conference in London during the summer of 2007.  The paper advertised the History and Policy website: http://www.historyandpolicy.org

I think this group in the UK has a lot of parallels with the ideas presented at the Active History conference in September 2008.  Moreover, they have developed a web resource to facilitate active or applied history that we need to consider developing in Canada.

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On Cultural Idenity

From: Keith A. Jamieson, Mohawk, Six Nations of the Grand River, September, 2008

These two quotes are from the keynote address I delivered at the National Portrait Gallery, London, UK, March 5th, 2007, on opening the “Between Worlds” exhibit, which featured the portraits of the “Four Kings”, four Mohawk emissaries to the Court of Queen Anne, 1710.

The first quote was informed by my reading of Jorge Larraine’s “Ideology and Cultural Identity”, 1984, and the second quote came from Paul Wallace’s book, “The White Roots of Peace”, 1940’s, and he attributed it to an anonymous Haudenosaunee/Iroquois speaker.

“For me, a cultural identity is as much a matter of becoming as it is of being. It belongs to the future as much as it does to the past. It is not something which already exists, transcending place, time, history and culture. Cultural identities come from somewhere, they have histories. But like everything which is historical, they undergo transformation, they are not (static) fixed in the past. They are subject to the continuous play of history, culture and power. Far from being grounded in a mere recovery of the past waiting to be found, identities are the names we give to the different ways we position ourselves within, and are positioned by the narratives of the past.”

“Ours is not a thing of paint and feathers, it is a thing of the heart.”

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Margaret Conrad’s 2007 CHA Presidential address seems like a good place to begin a discussion on what is Active History. Feel free to leave your comments.

“In a context in which history is increasingly commodity and spectacle, it becomes necessary for academic historians to generate a dialogue with the public about the uses and abuses of the past. This is not always a pleasant conversation, but it is one of the obligations of scholars in a democratic society who have the privilege of dealing in the coin of knowledge and ideas. As former CHA president Jean-Claude Robert argued persuasively in 2003, it is incumbent upon us as university professors also to be public intellectuals.(ft.37) We have been too long focused on honing our professionalism and too little involved in the wider world where many people have a curiosity about the past and a passion for historical research equivalent to our own. What is unworthy, for example, about being a genealogist, an amateur historian, or what academics sneeringly call an “antiquarian”? Surely, we all work in the same corner of the knowledge vineyard and have a lot to learn from each other. American historian Carl Becker made this point in his much-cited article, “Everyman His Own Historian,” published in 1932,(ft.38) in which he reversed the charge of relevance. Academic historians, he argued, needed to adapt their knowledge to the necessities of the present rather than “cultivate a species of dry professional arrogance growing out of the thin soil of antiquarian research.” Touché.” (Margaret Conrad, Public History and its Discontents or History in the Age of Wikipedia, 11-12)

For the full-text see: http://cha-shc.ca/english/info/Conrad_CHA_Address.pdf

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