Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Two Books on History

As the countdown for the new year begins, I am scrambling to finish the books that I had challenged myself to read this year. Here are brief descriptions of two books on history.

WHITE MYTHOLOGIES (1990)

Love the Cover.


A character in George Orwell's 1984 comments that whoever owns the past, owns the present. Is it any surprise than that the past is an extremely contested space and the concept of history has become extremely problematic? Professor Robert Young's first book then is an interrogation of theories -  Marxist, Post-Structuralist, Post-Colonial, Psychoanalytic - and he finds that all of them have problems in presenting 'history'. This book is considered a landmark in the academia as it was the first to present Post-Colonial theory as a field in itself. The book is heavy reading though when it reached the theories of Said, Bhabha, and Spivak, it became much easier (for me) to understand. I also liked the critique of Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, a book that I read last year. This is one book that I plan to reread in the coming year.



WHAT IS CULTURAL HISTORY? (2004)

In contrast, I found Professor Peter Burke's study of the origins and development of Cultural history much more easy reading. Tracing the genealogy of Cultural history from the German Kulturgeschichte to the  profusion of books in the twentieth century, the book explains in simple terms many tropes being used in cultural studies today.

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First Line: If so-called 'so-called poststructuralism' is the product of a single historical moment, then that moment is not May 1968 but rather the Algerian War of Independence - no doubt itself both a symptom and a product.

Title: White Mythologies: Writing History and the West
Author: Robert J.C. Young
Publication Details: London & NY: Routledge, 1999
First Published: 1990
Pages: 232
Source: OTS since 2000.
Other books read of the same author: None

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First Line: Cultural history, once a Cinderella among the disciplines, neglected by its more successful sisters, was rediscovered in the 1970s, as the chronological list of publications at the end of the volume suggests.

Title: What is Cultural History?
Author: Peter Burke
Publication Details: Cambridge: Polity, 2008
First Published: 2004
Pages: 179
Source: OTS since 2009
Other books read of the same author: None

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