Silencing The Past post

I felt a bit unsettled after the lecture on Silencing The Past. Having read the book, I-maybe naively- still considered the silences explained in the text to be a nearly extinct tool used only by historical narrators of the egocentric, imperialist past. I was not surprised by the notion of European glorification in historical narratives. Overall, the silences portrayed in the book seemed exotic and distant to me. Yet during the lecture on Monday, I realized that things like active ignorance, fabricated distractions or deviations from the truth, and historical silences in general are still occurring today. This worried me because, as Miranda commented, it sort of questions the whole mentality of modern liberalism- specifically social liberalism. It could definitely be said that today’s optimistic portrayal of interracial coexistence in entertainment and the media is a falsification of these relationships,or at least a cover-up of the past. Could such a progressive culture’s attempt at equality actually just be silencing racism rather than doing anything about it? Ultimately it’s as if society is trying to outrun the past, hoping not to become caught in a retrospective trap which would shame their ignorance.Looking at things this way, such a skirting of the race issue seems unhealthy. But what is the alternative? Is there an ideal medium between recognizing the past and the future? Have we achieved it?

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  1. I think the lecture was meant to unsettle us, so I’m glad it worked. Works in popular culture that make it seem as if racism or sexism no longer exist (or other oppressions), that we’re all just happily getting along, ARE problematic. But it’s so easy to get caught up in a good story, and one with a happy ending (I like those too!) that we can easily miss out on such concerns–I do all the time. It’s good to get a wake-up call.

    Is there a mean between recognizing the past and pointing towards the future? I’d like to think so; it would mean being honest with what has happened and what continues to happen, what isn’t working even though we’d like it to, and then work to develop a better future from there. Not sure what that looks like, exactly, though. Paul Krause suggested the films of Claude Lanzmann. I’ve seen only small parts of Shoah, which is over 9 hours long.

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