|Chris Cantwell: “Young Historian”|
The Appendix, a “quarterly journal of experimental and narrative history,” has published a series of interviews with young historians. They include:
All of these historians talk about their vocation journeys, their research, and the history of the discipline. Here is a taste of Chris Cantwell’s interview:
Why study history? What do you think is the future of history?
There’s a growing sentiment that the future of the past is online. Scholars, educators, curators, and librarians have all turned to social media and digital technology to find new ways of analyzing sources, sharing information, and cataloging the past. But I think this turn to the web is part of—or should be part of—an even more important shift toward the public. The ongoing fiscal crises and dominant economic ideologies that are rapidly remaking the myriad institutions in which the work of history is done have had far more drastic impacts upon the communities those institutions are intended to serve. I therefore simply cannot imagine a future history, academic and otherwise, that does not consider intentional and creative public engagement as important as innovation and accuracy.
As a centerpiece of the humanities, history is not “that which cannot be justified” as Stanley Fish has argued, or the “flower” to the more practical (and supposedly more employable) STEM disciplines, as the American Academy of Arts and Science’s Humanities Commission recently proposed. History is humanity’s lodestone, forever bending our projected upward progressions into arcs of time. The past anchors a person’s identity, shapes the communities in which they live, and serves as a rhetorical weapon in nearly every political discourse. To research, share, and promote history is not about enriching the human experience or ornamenting a student’s employability. It is about transmitting a set of skills that directly contribute to an individual’s social, civic, and economic success. If the profession is unable or unwilling to advance this claim in the future, then my hopes for the study of the past grow a little dimmer.
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