I do not know how many of the learned people who follow this forum know that 40 years ago today the United States government—and to point political fingers at political figures: President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and CIA Director Richard Helms—actively and illegally supported a bloody military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government in Chile. A lot, I suppose and hope. But I feel compelled to write not only in order to gently remind History@Work’s audiences of the historical importance of this, but also to draw attention to the public history work that has happened to make it worthy of the international attention that it so rightly deserves—and receives. Continue reading
The recent History@Work post postulating the importance of peer review and its possibilities in digital form challenges us to rethink more traditional methods of scholarly review. History@Work’s inaugural year demonstrates that the uptick in attention to public history’s products and projects in academic, international, and other circles is pushing and pulling us in new directions. Some of these can be seen in/as a demand for speedier, more inclusive methods of subjecting our histories to broader audiences, a wider array of scholarly and professional disciplines, and the subjects of history themselves. We also see this push and pull in perceptions of NCPH’s conference and publications, where long-standing tensions around the balance between scholarship and practice, professionals and publics, continue to make themselves felt.
Coincidentally, late last year, my chapter proposal “Popular History Makers and Activist Tools: Public Memorials in a Post-Conflict Society” was accepted for an innovative project whose ultimate goals “are to enhance the democratization of knowledge through an open review process and to enrich teaching, research, methodology, and theory in the discipline of History by providing a forum that enables the thoughts and contributions of the wider public to have direct impact on the discipline of History.” Subjecting History: Building a Relationship between History and its Alternatives (Ohio University Press) utilizes a digital forum to subject contributors’ chapters to not only peer review but, of equal importance, the public writ large. Continue reading
On a recent conference call that connected public history practitioners from Bangladesh, Brazil, Italy, Spain, South Africa, and the U.S., one participant remarked on the utility of replicating historic site and museum programs from different geographic locations in others. Another extolled the benefits of sharing ideas, methods, and experiences across the different regions of the world. Meanwhile I mapped these diverse localities in my mind, juxtaposing one local program with another; drawing others into the picture; putting in conversation an oral-history archive in Santiago with an aspiring one in Cambodia; comparing what to do with the former UN Special Courts building in Sierra Leone and what to do with a former site of detention and torture in Argentina; the universal linkages, I think, that connected these diverse locales.
Truth be told, I am interested in the idea of an international public history (maybe as part of a broader shift to public humanities) as much as I am with the idea, articulated in Robert Weyeneth’s recent piece in this blog, that the bedrock of public history remains rooted in the local, a particular place, a house’s history, the story of a neighborhood, the “location-specific case study.” Continue reading
I recently watched a documentary on, of all things, happiness. The film, “Happy,” focused on the study of happiness (positive psychology) and what makes people happy and when, along with the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that contribute or detract from happiness. One assertion is that being connected to a community or collective, being engaged in social interaction, with something to give and care about makes people happy. The documentary’s happy doctors (Ph.Ds. in psychology) demonstrate that social bonding inhibits self-interest and cooperation (and even competition) induces the better-than-drugs release of dopamine—a natural agent that makes us all smile with weak knees and big hearts.
I suspect that the readers of these words have also questioned happiness or being happy–specifically, being happy with the solitary process that constitutes the core of historians’ identity. Continue reading