Identities: Time, Difference, and Boundaries

Identities: Time, Difference, and Boundaries

Identities: Time, Difference, and Boundaries

Identities: Time, Difference, and Boundaries

Synopsis

Studies on exile in the 19th century tend to be restricted to national histories. This volume is the first to offer a broader view by looking at French, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Czech and German political refugees who fled to England after the European revolutions of 1848/49. The contributors examine various aspects of their lives in exile such as their opportunities for political activities, the forms of political cooperation that existed between exiles from different European countries on the one hand and with organizations and politicians in England on the other and, finally, the attitude of the host country towards the refugees, and their perceptions of the country which had granted them asylum.

Excerpt

Jön Rüsen

At the turn of the twenty–first century the very term “history” brings extremely ambivalent associations to mind. On the one hand, the last 10–15 years have witnessed numerous declarations of history's end. in referring to the fundamental change of the global political situation around 1989/90, or to postmodernism or to the challenge of Western dominance by decolonization and multiculturalism, “history”—as we know it—has been declared to be dead, outdated, overcome, and at its end. On the other hand, there has been a global wave of intellectual explorations into fields that are “historical” in their very nature: the building of personal and collective identity through “memory”, the cultural, social and political use and function of “narrating the past”, and the psychological structures of remembering, repressing and recalling. Even the subjects that seemed to call for an “end of history” (globalization, postmodernism, multiculturalism) quickly turned out to be intrinsically “historical” phenomena. Moreover, “history” and “historical memory” have also entered the sphere of popular culture (from history-channels to Hollywood movies). They also have become an ever important ingredient of public debates and political negotiations (e.g., to take the discussions about the aftermath of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, about the European unification or about the various heritages of totalitarian systems). in other words, ever since “history” has been declared to be at its end, “historical matters” seem to have come back with a vengeance.

This paradox calls for a new orientation or at least a new theoretical reflection. Indeed, it calls for a new theory of history. Such a theory should serve neither as a subdiscipline reserved for historians, nor as a systematic collection of definitions, “laws” and rules claiming universal validity. What is needed, is an interdisciplinary and intercultural field of study. For, in the very moment when history was declared to be “over”, what in fact did abruptly come to an end was—historical theory. Hay den White's deconstruction of the narrative strategies of the nineteenth century historicist paradigm somehow . . .

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