What defines someone as an amateur historian
Writing history in the age of globalization also means facing new challenges. Although there have long been approaches in historical studies that call for a history of the world in different forms (universal history, world history, global history, total history, etc.), most historians continue to work in national, regional or local categories. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as the methodological and epistemological implications of such approaches are taken into account. The liberation from the "great narratives" has released a great deal of creativity and innovation, especially in the fields of historical studies that work in cultural studies. Hardly anyone longs to go back to the days of master narratives. But at the moment there is hardly any willingness in the historical guild to even ask the question of how we can appropriately combine the various levels of micro- and macro-analysis with one another in a specific case.
A chance to re-initiate this discussion may lie in the growing interest in self-reflection on the discipline and its history. New impulses can be expected from a history of historiography that seeks beyond the still strong restrictions of national histories and wants to accept the challenge of a global perspective. But that means first of all giving up the old, simple explanatory pattern that historiography sees as a successful export product of European modernity, which the rest of the world has adopted in the course of its modernization.
It is very important to the editors and authors of this volume that they faced this challenge early on and tried to point out new ways. Written on the occasion of a conference at the German Historical Institute in Washington in 1997, it regrettably took a long time before the anthology was published, as some important contributions to the discussion have appeared in the meantime. The contributions to a follow-up meeting of the same group in 2000 are already in print.
"Across Cultural Borders, Historiography in Global Perspective" brings together thirteen contributions that deal with various regional and national forms of historiography in the 19th and 20th centuries from a so-called transcultural perspective. The declared aim of the editors is to initiate a world history of historiography since the 19th century (p.1). In this context, three aspects are emphasized as particularly important: a) Gathering information about historiographical developments in different countries, regions and cultures; b) examine "intercultural" relationships and transfers of historical knowledge; c) to address the problem of how to avoid Eurocentric approaches and interpretations.
The common program is the "transcultural comparison", which Eckhardt Fuchs briefly introduces in his introduction. Fundamental to this, as can be concluded from the following contributions, is the concept of a "cultural identity", but there is no more detailed discussion of this (doubly) problematic term. Fuchs also advocates a "softer", namely self-critical Eurocentrism, because reference points for general comparisons are only available using the terms developed in the European tradition.
In accordance with the guidelines formulated above, the volume is divided into three parts, which will be considered individually in the following. Part I is entitled "Historiography and Cultural Identity" and uses five case studies to investigate the specific contexts of historiographical developments after 1850. In his contribution to Spanish-American historiography, Jochen Meissner emphasizes the originality and independence with which despite the overwhelming influence of Europeans Traditions of knowledge and educational institutions, especially historians not anchored in academia, began at the beginning of the 19th century to write the history of their young nation-states. Particularly interesting in the Latin American context is the early transition from the colonial situation to independence and how this constellation is reflected in the constructions of national unity of historians, who mostly come from a Creole milieu.
This also addresses the common thread that connects the sometimes very different case studies of this first part: the construction of an independent colonial identity against the "motherland" or Europe, which included strongly anti-colonial and nationalist aspects, and the role of historiography in this process by allowing certain groups in colonial societies to understand their specific version of the past as a national project. Almost all articles convey this "colonial sense of place", as Benedikt Stuchtey calls the phenomenon. This focus may also explain the almost consequent neglect of other, more locally anchored historical traditions and practices. Stuchtey explains in his contribution that he deals with "Western intellectual problems placed in the South African context" (p. 55). Using South Africa as an example, he shows the different and competing constructs of national identity of two white colonial groups, the Boers and the British. While the Boers relied on a frontier model that was relatively little influenced by external influences, the British cultivated a "colonial nationalism" that can only be understood in the context of imperial discourse formations.
In the case of India, Michael Gottlob refers more emphatically than the previous contributions to the transcultural aspect of the question. He describes how the Western model of history has been integrated into a new type of historical practice with strong anti-colonial overtones. In doing so, he emphasizes the strangeness of Western historical thought in the Indian context and in his analysis remains more attached to the dichotomies of modern / traditional, foreign / individual, westernized / authentic, western / Indian, which are occasionally also echoed in other contributions. Andreas Eckert also refers more strongly to local traditions in his chapter on Anglophone West Africa between 1880 and 1940. With Reindorf and Johnson he examines two examples of amateur historians whom he describes as "cultural nationalists". Both authors wrote against European prejudices and presented - with reference to the oral traditions of their study units Ghana and Yoruba - specifically Christian versions of the respective past in order to create the basis for an independent national consciousness.
In his contribution on Japan, Stefan Tanaka also follows the role of historians of various stripes in the process of nation-building. He compares the staff of the Historiographical Institute with a non-academic historian, Yamaji Aizan. In this example, too, the (European?) Category of the nation was the focus for both sides, but it was defined in completely different ways.
Part II "Across Cultural Borders" is dedicated to the history of relationships and knowledge transfer across "cultural" borders. This could be at least a two-pronged approach, but the discussion below focuses primarily on the export of European and, in particular, German and French historical models to other contexts. Q. Edward Wang uses the fall of China in the early 20th century to show how a "new historiography" based on the German model was introduced and gradually merged with Chinese historical traditions over the years. This was accompanied by a great deal of interest in questions of historical methodology. In the 1940s, this historiographical trend was completely discredited under pressure from a more nationalist approach promoted by the state.
Matthias Middell investigates the complex phenomenon of francophone historiography in and about Africa up to the most recent times. He describes the complex relationships between academic institutions, scholars and historiographical trends in France and its former colonies and emphasizes the influence of French models, particularly in university infrastructure and education. In her article, Gabriele Lingelbach asks what role the much-cited "German model" actually played in the professionalization of American history. She comes to the conclusion that this German model as a firmly defined unit did not exist and that even in this "close" cultural context it was not a matter of simply adopting German practices, but of a complex process of adaptation, rejection and development of one's own Elements in the national framework, as already described in the case studies in Part I.
Eckhardt Fuchs 'contribution to the role of international historians' congresses in Europe (compared there with orientalist meetings), the Pacific region and Latin America between 1850 and 1920 shows that it was not easy to break away from European To distance models and to build up your own structures. However, such international congresses led to the establishment of specifically regional networks of scientists.
Fundamental problems of historical studies and their discursive fields are addressed in the four contributions of Part III "Beyond Eurocentrism". In perhaps the most interesting and demanding contribution of the volume, Arif Dirlik makes "reflections on Eurocentrism", so the subtitle. Eurocentrism is an integrative part of the historical discipline, explainable from the premises and contexts from which it was formed in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. The worldwide success of this model in the 20th century should not only and not primarily be attributed to its internal epistemological strength, but is also clearly a question of political, economic and military power relations. To want to eliminate any trace of Eurocentrism must inevitably lead to the abolition of history as a scientific discipline and to looking for alternatives. Dirlik, however, defends a future science of history by pointing out its critical and enlightening function and demands greater attention to the question of how unhistorical worldviews and everyday experiences could be linked with global, macro-historical analyzes.
Maghan Keita's plea for a deeper study of the role of Africa in the context of a new world history is a harsh criticism of the more recent approaches of the World History School, which generally neglect Africa and often emphasize a Euro-Asian unity. The article shows very clearly the difficulties of creating a "big narrative" with a truly global perspective.
Wang Hui also refers to the model of the world system in his contribution to the more recent historiography in China. The starting point is the recently widespread concern with the question of a specifically Chinese modernity - a question that Reinhard Schulze has repeatedly raised for the Islamic world. The old models of "external challenge" / "internal reaction" have been replaced by an approach that is more interested in internal Chinese developments and relies on local knowledge ("inner development theory"). In the last contribution of the volume, Jörn Rüsen takes up the problem of how a transcultural comparison of historiographical practices can be achieved at all. As a first step, he mentions the determination of historical criteria of meaning as the smallest unit of cultural codes. Arranged in a typology, these would be the building blocks for a complex general theory of historical consciousness with diachronic dimensions.
This anthology offers a variety of stimulating approaches both for specialists in the individual regions and for those who are generally interested in methodological questions. Through the range of selected case studies, it enables detailed insights into historiographical fields of work that are normally not easily accessible. However, the abundance of information from different temporal, spatial and thematic contexts, which is certainly one of the strengths of the publication, does not always make it easy for readers: somewhat more restricted questions and more rigor in the argumentation would often have been helpful here.
A few other points of criticism should be mentioned: First of all, the difficult question of the spatial and temporal dimensions of the units on which a "transcultural" comparison should be based. It is of course also reflected in this volume, but the solution found is not convincing in all aspects. If the geographical designation of large regions or entire continents as the "lowest common denominator" (p. 2) is also used for cultural delimitations, the basic problem of the "transcultural" approach becomes clear: How is a meaningful term of "cultures" in this context to define at all? Doesn't the transcultural comparison harbor the danger of essentializing such relatively arbitrarily chosen constructs? It remains questionable whether it is even possible to achieve meaningful comparison units using geographical and thus always territorial designations. Wouldn't it be appropriate to place more emphasis than it is in this volume anyway (see Part II and III) on "flows" and "networks", on transfers and relationships at all levels of analysis ? Because even if it is pointed out in the foreword that neither Europe nor the West are as unified as the African tradition, the Islamic, the Indian or perhaps to a lesser extent the Chinese and the Japanese, this requirement does not appear in the individual contributions Always redeemed. Only if the western and other cultures are to be separated from one another as distinct units can one speak of a "contamination", as in Gottlob's article on India (pp. 75-76). It does not matter whether the protagonists this and have used similar terms themselves: Debates about how traditional knowledge can be preserved and passed on in an unadulterated manner, are often the result of an "Encounter" difference ler traditions of knowledge and deserve a more differentiated consideration, especially in the context of historiography.
Furthermore, it cannot suffice to refer to a lack of knowledge about the so-called other traditions of historical knowledge and a gentle Eurocentrism if the claim of this volume is to be fulfilled, i.e. if historiography is actually to be viewed across cultural differences. This may require an expansion of the temporal dimension and a focus on the non-simultaneity of the simultaneity, as McNeill addresses in a quote given by Dirlik: In these same centuries, the Chinese, Moslem and Indian traditions of learning were far more successful in restisting challenge from without, improving upon the Europeans by refusing to pay attention to new and discrepant information. When a few self-styled "Enlightened" thinkers, located mainly in France, began to abandon the inherited Christian framework of knowledge entirely, guardians of inherited truth in Asia were not impressed. Instead, serious efforts to come to grips with what eventually became undeniably superior European knowledge and skills were delayed until almost our own time (p. 253).
It is indisputable that the state of research on these other historical traditions is not comparable with that on Europe, North and probably also South America. However, the more difficult access should not be an obstacle to entering into a dialogue with those who deal with these discourse formations, even if they work in other subjects. The world history of historiography is an interdisciplinary field of research. This volume is an important step in this direction and shows that dealing with these questions could be worthwhile for everyone. It is to be hoped that many will accept the challenge and the invitation to discuss.
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