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Michael Hendricks

Mentor Department

Politics and Government


History is often portrayed as an "objective" science, in which the dispassionate historian is more akin to a detective than a storyteller. In this sense, history is the succession of events in a linear narrative. However, in the pursuit of objectivity in history, there exists a necessary externalization of the narrative, in which one is forced to adopt a perspective outside of oneself in viewing and interpreting history. In doing so, history necessarily separates events from figures within those events, thereby also preventing an emotional and subjective connection with those who have suffered in the past. In doing so, all models of historiography alienate the powerless in the current age by preventing them from connecting emotionally with similar peoples of the past: the past selves can never connect with the modern consciousness. Thus objectivity, far from being unbiased in historical assessments, always sides with those with power, and current historical narratives emphasize "strongmen" and the fetish of power exemplifies historical trends. Even historiographies that seek to change this narrative- particularly Marxist historiography- fall victim to it due to the acceptance of the logic of objectivity in history. The only way to reconfigure historiography as a tool for the oppressed is to introduce a new conceptual framework that humanizes the oppressed throughout historical accounts. Thus, I will argue that history, rather than discard personal accounts as unreliable and biased, should embrace the emotional and purely subjective humanness imbued in such stories. This can only happen if historical events are deemphasized in favor of the figures within those events. In this manner, events instigated by the powerful are separated and prevented from subsuming the oppressed within those events. This framework, called emotive historiography, seeks to ensure that division between events and figures, ensuring that narratives of ideology are always curtailed and emotional connections can always be had between the oppressed of today and those of the past.

Emotive Historiography: Tool For The Oppressed
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