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ERIC Number: EJ821807
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Dec
Pages: 14
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0030-9230
The Upside of Presentism
Fendler, Lynn
Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education, v44 n6 p677-690 Dec 2008
Presentism is generally regarded as a necessary evil in historiography. This paper explores the upside of that inevitability. Using a philosophical approach to discourse analysis in the tradition of new cultural history, the paper distinguishes between a strategic use of presentism on the one hand, and a rationalistic approach to history on the other hand. The paper concludes by considering some political implications of rationalistic accounts and strategically presentistic accounts in historiography. Rationalistic accounts inscribe expectations of the past into visions of the future; they cast the historian in the role of prophet; and they perpetuate notions of a historic agency. In contrast, strategically presentistic histories incorporate an orientation that deliberately uses the lenses and perspectives of the present in order to bring current assumptions and perspectives into focus. When assumptions are examined in relation to presentistic perspectives, those assumptions loosen their reins on thought. Since presentism is unavoidable, presentism should not be dismissed outright, but ought to be subject to probing and critical examination. With such a focus, strategically presentistic historiography allows for a reflection on the limits of what it is possible to think. (Contains 48 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A