Re: History

Richard Spear (rspear@PRIMENET.COM)
Tue, 29 Aug 1995 07:23:55 -0800

On 29 Aug 95 at 12:09, John Mcreery wrote:

> Consider the following sentences.
> (1) HIstory belongs to the people.
> (2) History belongs to the People.
> On Rich Spears' account, which I will, for the moment, accept
> "Anthropologists have no problem differentiating between "people" and
> >"People" ... the first refers to individuals and is best understood by
> >psychologists while the second refers to *cultures* and is best
> understood by anthropologists."
> It would follow from (1) that history belongs to individuals, who have
> a right to a voice in what is said about them. Whether their judgments
> about themselves are more accurate than the judgments of others is
> moot.
> (2) says that history belongs to the culture. This is either trivial;
> history is a part of culture. Or, it suggests a politics in which
> the arbiters of culture control what "the People" will say about themselves.
> But who will speak for "the People"? Even in the most democratic of
> societies politically active people have strong interests in whatever
> version of history supports their political positions. Official histories
> are, in the nature of things, highly biased.And when used in certain ways
> (Tudjman again springs to mind) are not merely wrong. They are lethally
> dangerous.Who, after all, has spoken more strongly for a people who felt
> themselves oppressed than Adolph Hitler?
> My conclusion is simple. Everyone who is interested should have a voice.
> And those who have an interest may not be members of "the People."
> Chinese and Korean reactions to Japanese versions of WWI are a case in
> point.
> Beware of linguistic anthropologists and ordinary language philosophers.
> I am a bit of both. :-)

The above begins to sharpen our focus on the question at hand. I have
not been very religious about using "people" and "People" as I myself
defined, but I think the point is valid. Now to your most relevant
second point:

All historical human relationships are power relationships. History
*is* negotiated under these circumstances, always to the detriment
of weaker groups. This is the point being made by those who demand a
voice for People who have been ignored or suppressed during the
creation of the historical record. It is one thing to side with the
Nazis and create a record supporting their claims and another to
side with their victims to demand that the history reflect their
role. Betina Arnold's papers expose the corrupt role of
*archaeologists* in their support of Nazism. There's no surprise
when it is pointed out that one group or another wants to present
itself to it's own advantage, but there should be when allegedly
"neutral" and "scientific" participants become sycophants in the
process. This is probably Johnson's point ... it certainly is mine.

If the record is created by the author why not let People author
their own?

"Should not a People's history and culture be in their own hands?"