Between History and Histories: The Making of Silences and Commemorations

By Gill, Lesley | Anthropological Quarterly, July 1999 | Go to article overview

Between History and Histories: The Making of Silences and Commemorations


Gill, Lesley, Anthropological Quarterly


Between History and Histories: The Making of Silences and Commemorations. GERALD SIDER and GAVIN SMITH, eds. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; 310 pp.

This collection of articles examines the intersection between anthropology and history by focusing on the politics of commemorations. The twelve articles, written by anthropologists and historians, consider how the past is silenced and appropriated by contending social groups who seek to institutionalize particular visions of history. They call attention to the complex ways in which the meaning of the past is constantly shaped and reshaped in the present within broad fields of power and relationships of inequality. The volume is not concerned simply with remembering or forgetting. Rather, it explores the relationships between commemoration and silence as a process of struggle that is tied to the competing claims of diverse and unequal social groups.

The contributions move beyond analytic approaches that juxtapose multiple histories. associated with the local and ethnographic, to broader, more official history tied to social systems. The collection demonstrates that plural histories emerge both within the context of broad social processes, that is, "history," and in opposition to them. Most interesting, however, is the editors' assertion that histories also take shape against what is locally known and understood. This observation leads the editors and some of the contributors to an exploration of the antagonisms within culture. These antagonisms, they argue, shape the relationships within, as well as between, classes, and they are key to conceptualizing the organization and reproduction of societies.

Gerald Sider's article examines the contradictory ways in which "history" and ethnic "tradition" emerge in the process of class formation among Native Americans. Sider demonstrates that ethnic history is simultaneously a means of creating distance from elite control and oppression and deeply implicated in the process of domination. Social struggles, he concludes, necessarily emerge against both the dominant society and aspects of people's "own" culture. In a similar vein Gavin Smith analyzes the struggles of Peruvian peasants to claim their lives, beliefs, and practices against the efforts of more powerful intellectuals and government bureaucrats to produce their history for them. He shows that intellectual efforts to explain an event or clarify a story may inadvertently impose closure on the processes by which people debate, modify, and understand histories that are always open-ended.

Unlike the cases discussed by Smith and Sider, where local people struggle against dominant groups to partially claim "their own history," Gadi Algazi's analysis of village assemblies in medieval Germany details how even a semi-autonomous tradition is completely denied to peasants. In this extremely interesting piece Algazi shows how tradition is an arena of peasant oppression directly linked to their confrontational relationship with the lord. During highly ritualized yearly visits, the lord required village representatives to state and agree to the laws that delineated his rights, and that specified the rights and duties of peasants. These laws were based on peasants' coerced recollections about "custom," which could be discussed only in response to specific questions from the lord.

Sumit Sarkar's article on colonial India continues the discussion of antagonisms and ruptures within 'culture' laid out be Sider and Smith. Sarkar rejects what he refers to as simplistic "impact-- response frameworks" that homogenize and flatten the experience of colonialism for indigenous peoples. He is particularly critical of currently fashionable discourse analyses that assume a total, seamless colonial hegemony and a uniform indigenous culture. He then provides a fascinating analysis of a court case that brought individuals of different castes, classes, and genders together and demonstrates that neither colonialism nor local history are understood the same way by everyone.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Between History and Histories: The Making of Silences and Commemorations
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.