Postgraduate Course: The Invention of History (SCAN11008)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course is about how we may understand our relationship with the past. Engaging with a growing body of anthropological work, and research done in related disciplines, which has emphasised the collective nature of memory, and the social construction of the past, it looks at how the past is understood, experienced, remembered and represented in different ethnographic contexts in the present. Memory, history, and 'oral traditions' will be examined as different but related means of understanding, representing and politicising the past, alongside other, less discursive means of relating to the past, such as through performance, objects, bodies and landscape.
Engaging with more recent arguments that have emphasised the limits to the 'invention' of history, the course will consider how the study of 'the past' inevitably involves not only notions of time and temporality, but also of landscape, space and place, and artefacts, bodies, practice, things and materiality. The politics of the past is in no way limited to how we understand or represent it; it is also finely related to questions of what to do with its materiality - in the form of archaeological remains, ruins and heritage sites, objects and artefacts, bodies and bones, monuments and memorials.
With reference to a variety of empirical examples and broader theoretical trends, lectures will explore the politics of the past through the following topics: Time and denial of co-evalness; nationalism and identity; memory and forgetting; commemoration and memorials; heritage and museums; landscape and place; ruins, ruination and affect; artefacts and bones; and kinship, performance and ritual.
1. Inventing histories
In the first lecture we will tackle the proposition that is suggested in the title for this course: that history, our stories of the past, are 'invented' and that this processes of invention is bound-up with the politics of identity and, in particular, is indivisible from modern articulations of national (or sub-state national) identities.
2. The past in the present
In this lecture we will consider the anthropology of time and the problem of the relationship between the past and the present. Focussing on key debate within Anthropology (1996), we will explore the seeming contradiction inherent in the notion of the 'invention of history' that the past is theoretically constituted as being at once determining yet determined.
3. Collective memory
Following on from the previous lecture, we will discuss the problem of the presence of the past with particular reference to 'memory' and especially collective, or social, memory. We will find a pathway through the vast literature on collective memory, which shares an emphasis on the ways that our memories of past events are socially constituted in the present.
4. Landscapes and ruins
This lecture focuses on the temporality of landscape and the ways in which the past inhabits, or is said to inhabit, the material fabric of the world around us. We will particularly focus on ruins.
5. Ghosts and the return of the repressed
A with ruins, ghosts and 'the spectral' are enjoying something of theoretical vogue. This lecture will discuss some of the reasons for this popular and academic interest in ghosts. Building on the previous lectures, we will consider the proposition that ghosts are an affective experience of the unbidden return of a past, often, traumatic and violent, that has been repressed, or 'forgotten', within normative narrations of a shared history.
6. Silence and forgetting
The relationship between silence, memory, and forgetting is indeed an intricate one. Although it is often associated as an effect of trauma in the literature, silence as concept and silence as practice are far more complex than merely a symptom or product of trauma. Through looking at various case studies, this lecture will illustrate the complexity and ambiguity of silence in memory and forgetting.
7. Exhuming bodies and bones
This lecture will consider the exhumation of bodies and bones and the ways in which the process of exhumation is enfolded into contemporary politics of memory and forgetting, particularly in situations where people are living with the legacy of traumatic, often state-sponsored, violence.
8. Remembered homelands
This lecture examines political deployments of history and memory in a case study of a displaced community, starting with the romanticisation of the homeland and the powerful mobilisation of collective memory and collective voice in oral traditions, and moving on to examine the consequent challenges of meeting legal requirements for individual eye-witness testimony and the slippery character of official written record-keeping.
9. Visiting the past
Nowadays, in the words we want to be affected by the past. Indeed, we will go to great lengths and are willing to spend huge amounts of money to have ourselves affected by the past. This lecture is about the lengths we will go and the money we will spend to experience the past. We discuss heritage tourism, the commodification of history and the possibility of visiting the past.
10. Dark tourism and cosmopolitan memory
To conclude the course, and following on from the discussion of heritage tourism, the final lecture will explore the phenomena of 'dark tourism' in order to discuss the future of the study of the invention of history and collective memory in the context of globalisation and cosmopolitanism.
Student Learning Experience:
This is hands on and intensive course in which students will learn through a mixture of lectures, 'homework' exercises and in-class discussions. There will be a weekly two hour lecture, and this will be supported by a one hour small group seminar for postgraduate students that will take place every second week.
Beyond the classroom learning experience the course organiser warmly encourages one to one discussions about issues relating to the course content and the students own academic interests.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Not being delivered|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- show an understanding of how the past is imagined, constructed and contested through the processes of history, memory and commemoration
- show recognition of the role that ideas and knowledge of the past play in the complex politics of identity and state-making, in colonial, postcolonial and nationalist contexts
- show an understanding of how place & space, landscape, objects, bodies and things (in discursive and material ways), can enable and limit the imagination of the past
- show an appreciation of the ways in which notions of the past inform, enable, and limit the means through which landscape, objects and heritage are understood, engaged with, and managed; and the way in which struggles over place and the past are both inscribed in and produce or constitute space/place, landscape, ritual and artefacts.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Dr John Harries
Tel: (0131 6)50 4051
|Course secretary||Miss Kate Ferguson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122