DISTANCING THE PRESENT
Fall Term 1995
Department of History
CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY
The course aims to explore certain moral issues related to the study of the past The work of the historian is always both an expression of the relationship of the present to the past, and an intervention in the past on behalf of the present Stories are never innocent, recollecting past events changes the role, the context the status of the people and the acts remembered. The course tries to show that even the seemingly neutral methods, practices, tools that the historian uses, play a role in redressing the past, in reshaping its meaning, in establishing a calculated or unintended but still heavily loaded connection between the living and the dead.
All the problems I will try to raise in the course of the seminar are related to or informed by the recent past of Central-Eastern Europe. However, most of the examples and the selected readings come from or refer to other periods and other regions. Temporal and geographical distance is introduced in order to enable the participants of the seminar to focus on the consequences of certain historical practices, and moral concerns, rather than on just specific, politically motivated aspects of the recent past The chosen method of investigation is a reflection of the topic of the seminar. It is hoped that by investigating the probable consequences of distancing the present from the pest from both temporal and geographical distance could help in raising legitimate, general and important concerns related to the work of the historian and to the understanding the past from the perspective of the present.
Chronology of the Course:
Erasure - Attempts of Changing the Past
Milan Kundera, The Book Laughter and Forgetting, Part One. Lost Letters. Penguin Books, 1986 pp. 3-24.
Medicalisation of Forgetting
Michael S. Roth, Remembering forgetting Maladies de la Memoire in Nineteenth-Century France. In Representations 26 Spring 1989 pp. 49-68.
Ian Hacking, Rewriting the Soul, Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory. Chapters, 14 and 15. (The Sciences of Memory ant Memoro-Politics, (198-221) Princeton U.P. 1995
Techniques of Remembering Otherwise
Patrick Geary, Men, Women and Family Memory. In: Geay, Phantoms of Remembrance. Princeton UP,1994 pp 48-80.
Stanley Cohen, State Crimes of Previos Regimes: Knowledge, Accountability, and the Policing of the Past. in: Law of Social Inquiry, Vol 20, 1, Winter 1995 pp.7-50.
Legal or Historical Stories. Ways of Recollecting the Past
I. Osiel, Law and Collective Memory of Administrative Massaere. Comparative Perspectives (Mimeo 30 pages)
"The Moral Implications of Distance"
Carlo Ginzburg, Killing the Chinese Mandarin: The Moral Implication of Distance. In: Critical Inquiry 21 (Autumn 1994), pp 46-60.
Exhibiting the Living. The Exotic on Display
Curtis M. Hinsley, The World as Marketplace: Commodification of the Exotic at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1983 and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Objects of Ethnography. In: Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine (eds.) Exhibiting Cultures. The Poetics nd Politics of Museum and Display Smithsonian Institution, 1991 pp. 344-365 and 386-443.
Exhibiting the Dead History, Archeology versus the Care of the Dead
David W. Cohen, Silences of the Living, Orations of the Dead. In: The Combing of History. Univ. of Chicago P. 1994. pp. 78-111.
Jane Hubert, A Proper place for the dead: a critical review of the "reburial" issue. In: R. Layton (ed.), Conflict in the Archeology of Living Traditions. Unwin Hyman, London, 1989, pp. 131-165.
The Use of the Dead.
I. Rev, Parallel Autopsies In Representations 49 Winter 1995 pp. 15-39.
Naming. Reflecting on the Horrors of History
Stuart Liebman and Annette Michelson, After the Fall: Women in the House of the Hangmen. Helke Sander, Remembering/ Forgetting Gertrud Koch, Blood, Sperm, and Tears. In: October, 72 Spring, 1995 pp 5-14, 15-25, 27-41.
Gabor T. Rittersporn, The Omnipresent Conspiracy. On Soviet Imagery of Politics and Social Relations in the 1930s. In: J. Arch Getty and Roberta T. Manning (eds.) Stalinist Terror. New Perspectives. Cambridge U P. 1993 pp 99-115.
I.Rev, The Advantages of being Atomized. (Mimeo,1985, 46 pages)
Distancing the Unknown
Carlo Ginzburg, Making Things Strange. The Prehistory of a Literary Device. (Mimeo, 1995, 20 pages)
Students expected to write a short (1-2 pages long) position paper for each class that will form the basis of discussion. The fina1 grade of the course will reflect activity in class (30%), the evaluation of the position papers (20% ) and the grade of the final essay (50% ).
CRC-Curriculum Resource Center
CEU Budapest, Hungary
Revised: May 1996
Back to the History Syllabi List Back to the Syllabi Collection
Back to the CRC Homepage Back to the CEU Homepage