Category: Theory of History Polyphonic

In historical research, the theory of history tends to be merely negotiated implicitly. Explicit exchanges about the quality, usefulness and pertinence of theory of history remain unspoken as a rule. Under the heading “Theory of History Polyphonic” we would therefore like to collect draft ideas on what theory of history can and should achieve. These drafts will form the polyphonic basis for rethinking theory of history on the blog. We would very much appreciate receiving your drafts, preferably in thesis form, outlined in a text of one to three pages. You may find the following questions a useful guideline:

• What does theory of history actually mean and what can it achieve?
• To what fields does theory of history offer added value? To history? To society? Or to other disciplines?
• What does it mean when we speak of “theory of history”? Shouldn’t we always be referring to “theories of history? Are we talking about theory(ies) of history as an object of research, as a representation of past events or as a research field after all?
• What is the relationship between theory of history and historical research?
• How does the theory of history differ from the philosophy of history?
• How relevant is the theory of history in your own academic culture?
• From an international perspective, does the theory of history have national or other distinctive characteristics? Can this be justified from a historical viewpoint?

Outlines of a critical theory of history

Christophe Bouton – Philosophical research on history as it is developing today in France does not pursue the ambition that characterized the philosophies of history of Hegel or Auguste Comte, namely delivering the sense and finality of “the history of humanity”. This way of thinking about history continued to recede throughout the twentieth century, and has been criticized by both philosophers (such as François Lyotard, who pointed to the end of “great narratives”) and historians (for example Paul Veyne and Roger Chartier). Like many others I prefer the expression “theory of history”, in order to establish distance from the tradition of teleological philosophies of history. What positive content can be attributed to it?
Article en Français Post in English

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Theory of History as a reflexive endeavor. Tracing the ‘Beginning’

Marcus Wystub – An unfinished workpiece; it is being face-milled; the machining process begins. Further machining of the unfinished workpiece would be impossible without a plan surface. Finally, it needs a measuring reference. A beginning has been made here in the working. What would a ‘beginning’ in historical-theoretical activity look like? Where does working on theory of history begin?
Beitrag in Deutsch Post in English

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Theorizing History or How to Rethink Theory of History through Questions

Lisa Regazzoni – In his artwork Collage oulʼâge de la colle (Collage or the Age of Paste), Man Ray confronts us with the question of when historical ages and thus caesurae are marked and along what criteria. What if paste were to be raised to a category of historical time structuring analogous to the stone, iron or bronze age? After all, its technical relevance is immense, and not only for members of the avant-garde in the arts. Is Man Ray doing “Theory of history” in his artwork?
Beitrag in Deutsch Post in English

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„There are no truths outside the Gates of Eden“ (Bob Dylan)

Jörg van Norden – Theory of history is one of four pillars in history didactics. History didactics considers the educational value of history and before giving an estimate must first clarify what history really is. Theory of history explains what history is. The question of theories in history should be subordinate to the question of what history is.
Beitrag in Deutsch Post in English

4

Historical Theory(ies) and Critical Whiteness Studies

Bärbel Völkel – This paper explores the argument that whiteness is inscribed as an invisible hegemonic norm in European theories of history, particularly in historicism as the still contextually relevant theoretical basis of nation-state history, and that this norm continues to the detriment of people of color to this day.
Beitrag in Deutsch Post in English

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Between identity, power and truth: The use of theory in the science of history

Uwe Walter – In the system of handling history academically, theory is clearly (also) a matter of distinction. This holds true whether theory is used or not: For many ancient historians who work closely with the material or indeed even render it accessible, for Monumenta medievalists or historians of diplomacy and editors who immerse themselves in the files, rejecting “theoretical flights of fancy”, conceptual apriorism or the subordination of sources to an “add-on” theory or even one that is extraneous to the discipline is all part of a professional self-understanding and in this sense has a community-building effect.
Beitrag in Deutsch Post in English

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The theory of history and the “fourth revolution”

Edoardo Tortarolo – For a long time, the theory of history has had a bad reputation. Among practising historians engaged in the analysis of a specific issue, the conviction has long prevailed that through systematic recourse to a set of sources it was possible to narrate a past event in full and, in so doing, to present readers with an implicit or explicit analysis of an aspect of human life from the past. This strongly empirical and therefore anti-theoretical view resulted in considerable efforts throughout the twentieth century to understand the genesis of relevant realities of human life. It must be acknowledged that it also led to blatant distortions, whether intentional or unintentional, based on the ideological manipulation of sources.
Contributo in italiano Post in English

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Towards a Broad and Inclusive Theory and Philosophy of History

João Ohara – Histories written from feminist, post- or decolonial, and racial-critical perspectives are powerful examples of the kind of polyphonic historical understanding about which Ethan Kleinberg invites us to think. However, these histories and the theories that make them possible are still considered “special cases” apart from mainstream historiography and theory of history proper. A broad and inclusive definition of theory and philosophy of history can help us overcome this problem.

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Theory on the ground. A few remarks on theory of history

Anna Karla – The following text describes the relationship between history and theory in five interventions. The fact that it by no means covers the topic exhaustively lies in the matter itself rather than the brevity of the form. Theory of history unfolds in the course of conversation. Its allies are provisional ways of thinking and tentative expressions rather than an architecture of solid concepts.
Beitrag in Deutsch Post in English

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