Silencing the Past

The first thing that struck me, even just as I was reading the preface, was Trouillot’s eloquent narrative (I’m not sure if that’s the right word) style. There’s a natural flow and a certain amount of grace in his writing that extremely captivating. I find that he’s a lot easier to follow than Hobbes, Plato or even Rousseau, but perhaps that’s simply because this was written in 1996.

According to Trouillot, “at best, history is a story about power, a story about those who won” (Trouillot 5), and his ultimate goal is to expose the “many ways in which the production of historical narratives involves the uneven contribution of competing groups and individuals who have unequal access to the means for such production” (Trouillot xix). While I completely agree with Trouillot’s argument, I wonder if it’s applicable in a more modern context. For example, although Darren Wilson (the police officer who shot Michael Brown) not being sentenced for murder came as a huge loss for any minority (and arguably anyone) in the United States, Darren Wilson will not be the one writing this piece of history; instead, it will be written by the protestors, the demonstrators, the underdogs.


  1. I do think there is something to be said for the oppressed of history creating a historical narrative (such as the protestors you mentioned). People say that those in power right the history books, but this is not true in all cases- the underdogs are known to convey some of the most powerful, memorable historical narratives.

  2. Good point about how the voices making history seem to be more varied now, even since the writing of this text. I think the “underdogs” are being heard more and more in the past decades, especially, perhaps, with the rise of social media. But I also wonder if his argument might still hold to some extent, because the ones writing history will still be the ones who have a certain amount of power–people who are literate, who have access to social media, who speak to the news media, etc.

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