First things first…

I suppose you could say the primary reason for the creation of this site is for notetaking to begin over seminal postmodernist texts. And so without further ado, let’s start with that most pressing.

Keith Jenkins, Re-thinking history;

Chapter 1

Pages 7-8

…the past and history are different things…

…additionally the past and history are not stitched into each other such that only one historical reading of the past is absolutely necessary…

…for the same object of enquiry can be read differently by different discursive practices…

…history is a discourse about, but categorically different from, the past…

…the past has gone and history is what historians make of it when they go to work…

Pages 8-10

…examples of the past-history distinction may seem innocuous but actually it can have enormous effects. For example, although millions of women have lived in the past…few of them appear in history, that is, in history texts. Women, to use a phrase, have been ‘hidden from history’, that is, systematically excluded from most historians’ accounts…

…the past and history are not stitched into each other such that one and only one reading of any phenomenon is entailed: that the same object of enquiry is capable of being differently by different discourses whilst, internal to each, there are different readings over space and time…

pages 11-13

…whilst historians and the rest of them do not invent the view (all of the stuff seems to be there alright) they do invent all its descriptive categories and any meanings it can be said to have. They construct the analytical and methodological tools to make out of this raw-material their ways of reading and talking about it; discoursing in that sense we read the world as a text, and, logically, such readings are infinite. By which I do not mean we just make up stories about the world/the past (that is we know the world/the past then make up stories about them) but rather the claim is a much stronger one; that the world/past comes to us always already as stories and that we cannot get out of these stories (narratives) to check if they correspond to the real world/past because these ‘always already’ narratives constitute reality…which means we cannot fix readings as once and for all…and may interpret and re-interpret…

…different sociologists and historians interpret the same phenomenon differently through discourses that are always on the move, that are always being de-composed and re-composed: are always positioned and positioning, and which thus need constant self-examination as discourses by those who use them…

…how the historian tries to know the past is crucial in determining the possibilities of what history is and can be, not least because it is history’s claim to knowledge (rather than belief or assertion) that makes it the discourse it is (I mean, historian do not usually see themselves as writers of fiction, although inadvertently they may be)…

…epistemology refers to the philosophical area of theories of knowledge. This area is concerned with how we know about anything, in that sense history is part of another discourse, philosophy, taking part in the general question of what it is possible to know with reference to its own area of knowledge -the past…

…we still see historians as trying to raise before us the spectre of the real past, an objective past about which their accounts are accurate and even true…

…if it were possible to know once and for all, now and forever, then there would be no need for any more history to be written…

…epistemological fragility, then, allows for historians’ readings to be multifarious (one past – many histories) so what is it that makes history so epistemologically fragile?..

pages 14-17

…most information about the past has never been recorded and most of the rest was evanescent…no account of the past can recover the past because the past was not an account but events, situations, etc. As the past has gone no account can ever be checked against it but only against other accounts….there is no proper history that, deep down, allows us to check all other accounts against it, there is no fundamentally correct text which other interpretations are just variations; variations are all there are…no matter how verifiable, how widely accepted or checkable, history remains inevitably a personal construct, the manifestation of the historian’s perspective as a narrative…the historians viewpoint and predilections will shape the choice of historical materials…

…look says the poet Klebinikov, in his decrees to the planets ‘The sun obeys my syntax’, look says the historian ‘the past obeys my interpretation’….

…through hindsight we, in a way, know more about the past than those who lived in it. In translating the past into modern terms, and in using knowledge perhaps previously unavailable, the historian discovers both what has been forgotten about the past and pieces together things never pieced together before. People and social formations are thus caught up in processes that can only be seen in retrospect, and documents and other traces are ripped out of their original contexts of purpose and function to illustrate, say, a pattern which might not be remotely meaningful to any of their authors. And all this is, Lowenthal says, inevitable. History always conflates, it changes, it exaggerates aspects of the past. Time is foreshortened, details selected and highlighted, action concentrated, relations simplified, not to [deliberately] alter the events but to…give them more meaning…

….then Lowenthal concludes histories as known to us appear more comprehensible than we have any reason to believe the past was…

…history is a shifting discourse constructed by historians and that from the existence of the past no one reading is entailed: change the gaze, shift the perspective, and new readings appear. Yet although historians know all this, most seem to studiously ignore it and strive for objectivity and truth nevertheless…

pages 18-20

…for while historians would agree that a rigorous method is important, there is a problem as to which rigorous method they are talking about…how would one know which method leads to the truer past…

…the fact that history is per se an ideological construct means that it is constantly being re-worked and re-ordered by all those who are variously affected by power relationships; because the dominant and the dominated also have their own versions of the past to legitimize their practices, versions which have to be excluded as improper from any place on the agenda of the dominant discourse…history is forged in such conflict and clearly these conflicting needs for history impinge upon the debates (struggle for ownership) as to what history is…

…epistemology shows we can never really know the past: that the gap between history and the past (historiography) is an ontological one, that is, in the very nature of things is such that no amount of epistemological effort can bridge it…

Pages 26-31 On Practice

Fourth, in going about their work of finding various materials to work on and work up,historians shuttle between other historians’ published work(s) sotred up labour time embodied in books, articles, etc.) and unpublished materials. This, unpublished, newish material can be called the traces of the past (literally the remaining evidence of the past -documents, records, artifacts, etc), these traces being a mixture of the known (bu tlittle used)trace new, possibly unused and unknown traces, and old traces; that is, materials used before but, because of the newish traces found, now capable of being placed in contexts different to those they occupied before and so began the traces of the transformation of the once concrete into the concrete in thought, that is,into historians’ accounts. Here the historian literally reproduces the traces of the past in to category and this act of transformation the past into history -is his or her basic job…

….quite literally no two readings are the same…

…although the above seems to suggest that all is in interpretive flux, in fact we read in fairly predictable ways. So, in that sense, what pins readings down? Well not detailed agreements on all and everything because the details will always float free -specific things can always be made to mean more or less- but general agreements do occur. They do so because of power; here we return to ideology. For what stops texts being used in totally arbitrary ways is the fact that certain texts are nearer to some texts than others; are more or less locatable in genres, into slots; are more or less congenial to the needs that people (s) have which are expressed in texts. And so apres Orwell they find affinities and fixing posts that are themselves ultimately arbitrary, but which relate to the more permanent needs of groups and classes: we live in a social system -not a social random…

…to deconstruct other people (s) histories is a pre-condition of constructing your own and also a reminder that history is always history for someone…

pages 31-32

Chapter 2

…I have run arguments from Elton and others where the aim of historical study is to gain real (true) knowledge and suggested this is, strictly speaking, unachievable…

…where does this desire for certainty come from? [it become established in the works of Plato and his theory of absolute knowledge, implying that true/good knowledge out to entail true/good practice…

…christians then claimed the word of god was the word of truth which then gave the criteria to judge things in terms of right and wrong….the emergence of science also conflated the importance of objectivity when facts became stated and on them things actually worked.

Why does this site exist?

This site exists for a number of reasons, all of which are interconnected; firstly I am on the move a lot which means I can’t carry my books around with me, most of which become lost in the process; secondly, given that I am adrift of academia where seminars end notetaking takes precedence; thirdly, I am not constrained by departmental demands and so my interests in all affairs academic is looser, or perhaps broader, in certain respects; fourthly, the safest place to keep material in all its guises is on-line for then they are easily accessed always…