History is biased

Trouillot is very much like a story-teller. Throughout his book, I’ve noticed that he shifts from one writing style to another. In the beginning, he starts kind of in the middle of nowhere and jumps into a factual account of the Alamo. Then his story becomes a sort of discussion, where he distinguishes the many aspects of history. He seems to know that he is writing for North-American undergrads, that we are his audience. Therefore in his presentation of facts, story-telling and discussion he is selective about what is presented and what is silenced. He tells us that, from page 56- 57, in considering who his audiences are, he chose to insert and omit certain facts. In a sense, there are also silences in Silencing the Past, and Trouillot admits that. I like how he argues that history is biased by telling us that he is biased too, which¬†makes his argument very convincing. There is no doubt that history is like a chronicler providing a play-by-play account of a game, as it cannot be inclusive of literally every thing that happens. But what gets told and what doesn’t get told is dependent on who has power. Can a white male write African history? Trouillot introduces many on-going debates about¬†power and the production of history in this book. It is therefore useful to know that the silences in history is also a part of history, and by acknowledging those silences, we are making history as well. In the lecture on Monday, the idea of ‘reparations’ came up at one point. This relates to the ‘disneyland of slavery’ in the book. I guess the question isn’t whether or not we can repair the damage, but whether or not it’s appropriate, and what’s the point of it. A similar case is First Nations of British Columbia. We all know that by saying “the unceded land of the Musqueam people” means that we are acknowledging that we are technically ‘illegal immigrants’. Power and hegemony play a huge role in creating history and also ‘what is reality’. I think Trouillot wants us to find the marginalized part of history.

1 Thought.

  1. I also find it striking how much of a good storyteller he is. That’s one of the things that gets me about this book each time I read it. Especially the vignettes before chapters, but also his story about Sans Souci and the Haitian revolution. Though it’s not always easy to keep track of the events and characters, I felt drawn in by the story nonetheless.

    I sometimes wonder about acknowledging that we are operating on traditional, unceded territory of the Musqueam band. This is certainly important to point out, but then we just go about our business after that as if it doesn’t really change anything. It almost becomes an empty phrase after awhile. Then again, the situation is difficult because here we are at UBC, our place of education and for some of us a place of employment, and it’s hard to just not be here, or give up the whole space of the university. What do we do? I think one thing would be to take more time to determine just what has happened to the First Nations people in this area, and what continues to happen in the present that is a legacy of that. And work towards ameliorating those situations in some way. I have to admit I have been remiss in doing so, even though I think it might be a way to make the acknowledgement of my occupation of this territory less hollow.

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