Silencing the past (and present?)
This is actually my week to blog. Woohoo!
So I did one of my favourite things to do when I don’t quite know what something means (it happens a lot when some colleagues use big words in seminar) – I Googled this book. And one of the first things that came up is a book review by some random with a .edu website. So I thought it looked semi-credible, and upon reading it I realized that some of his points corresponded with some of my points. Here it is.
1. On page 9 at the top, Trouillot asks, “Does this mean that the line between history and fiction is useless?” I think this is a great question, so I’m going to borrow/steal/share it. If, given that there are certain grey areas in our reading of history because information is left out, does that make the account we do have (potentially filled with gaps) fictional?
2. On page 17, in the second paragraph, Trouillot says that the slave trade in the US is used as a “necessary explanation to current inequalities suffered by blacks”. This question is twofold: part A is WHY is it a necessary explanation? Why can current inequalities not simply stand alone? Why must we continue to bring up the past and use it to back up our arguments? I think this is the opposite of ‘silencing’ the past.
Part B is, if Trouillot is so concerned with inequalities (as he seems to be in this particular moment), why does he use the term ‘blacks’? I was under the impression that it was not entirely PC in the 21st century. But he’s Haitian; does that mean I can go around talking about ‘whites’? I don’t want to delve too deeply into the issue of racism, but at what point does self-identifying with a term you wouldn’t want other people using to describe you become hypocritical? (Maybe hypocritical isn’t the right word, but I can’t think of a more appropriate one.) This isn’t a real question, I’m just genuinely curious.
3. I’m stealing another one from Trouillot because he asks so many beautifully worded, poignant questions and then doesn’t answer them! Of course they’re somewhat rhetorical, but the issues behind them are worth discussing. On page 22 in the third paragraph, he asks “is it really inconsequential that the history of America is written in the same world where few little boys want to be Indians?” I don’t know how to explain this further but I would genuinely like to discuss it.
4. On page 49 in the second paragraph, Trouillot goes into why silences are inherent in history. Basically he says that it’s because there’s always something missing in a historical retelling. This is a purely hypothetical question, but if we were to have a completely honest, unbiased historical tale that takes all the sides into account, what would we do with it? Would everyone be left to develop their own unbiased opinions? Would we get into better or worse historical debates than we already do?
5. Page 81, paragraph 4 says that “unmarked humanity is white”. I’m SO SO glad Trouillot brought this up because the issue of the marked/unmarked case is one that really interests me. This isn’t so much a question as kind of a statement … Trouillot says that this reflects on the vocabulary of the times. Is unmarked humanity still white? Will we ever move past the fact that the unmarked case is a middle-class, middle aged white male? How many years has this been the case? What will it take for this not to be the case anymore?
Lucky this is my last time doing ‘questions’ because I don’t seem to be very good at condensing my thoughts into something small enough to be called a question. These are definitely more like ramblings. Oh well. I’m going to post this before I read it over and realize how rambl-y it sounds. Happy Thursday, everyone! 🙂