按:这是美国历史学会会长James H. Sweet 博士8月17日在Perspectives on History发表的一篇评论。这篇文章引起了轩然大波,受到非常多的批评,甚至有人因为他引用的示例,直指他是一位种族主义分子。


Identity Politics and Teleologies of the Present


作者:James H. Sweet|Aug 17, 2022

翻译:Eddy Zhang (2022年9月17日。更新:2022年9月18日)

AUTHOR’S NOTE (AUG 19, 2022) 作者附言 (2022年8月19日)

My September Perspectives on History column has generated anger and dismay among many of our colleagues and members. I take full responsibility that it did not convey what I intended and for the harm that it has caused. I had hoped to open a conversation on how we “do” history in our current politically charged environment. Instead, I foreclosed this conversation for many members, causing harm to colleagues, the discipline, and the Association. 我9月份的 “历史视角 “专栏引起了我们许多同事和会员的愤怒和不安。因为它没有很好地传达我的意图,反而带来了伤害,我需要承担全部责任。我曾希望就我们在当下政治色彩浓郁的环境中如何”研究”历史展开一点对话。然而相反,我的文章将许多会员排除在这种对话之外,对同事、学科和协会造成了伤害。

A president’s monthly column, one of the privileges of the elected office, provides a megaphone to the membership and the discipline. The views and opinions expressed in that column are not those of the Association. If my ham-fisted attempt at provocation has proven anything, it is that the AHA membership is as vocal and robust as ever. If anyone has criticisms that they have been reluctant or unable to post publicly, please feel free to contact me directly. 主席的月度专栏是当选这个职位的特权之一,为协会和这门学科提供了一个传声筒。该专栏所表达的观点和意见并不代表本协会。如果说我笨拙的冒犯还有些用处,那就是证明美国历史学会(AHA)的会员们和以前一样拥有话语权和健全的头脑。如果有人不愿意或不能公开发表批评意见,请随时直接与我联系

I sincerely regret the way I have alienated some of my Black colleagues and friends. I am deeply sorry. In my clumsy efforts to draw attention to methodological flaws in teleological presentism, I left the impression that questions posed from absence, grief, memory, and resilience somehow matter less than those posed from positions of power. This absolutely is not true. It wasn’t my intention to leave that impression, but my provocation completely missed the mark. 我真诚地对我让一些黑人同事和朋友感觉疏离而感到遗憾。我深感抱歉。我本想提醒大家注意所谓当下主义目的论(teleological presentism)在方法论上的缺陷,但却笨拙地造成了这样一种印象:比起从掌权者视角提出的问题,从缺席、悲痛、记忆和坚韧等视角中提出的问题并不那么重要。这绝对我的真实意思。我无意留下这样的印象,但我的挑战完全没有击中要害。

Once again, I apologize for the damage I have caused to my fellow historians, the discipline, and the AHA. I hope to redeem myself in future conversations with you all. I’m listening and learning. 我再次为自己带给历史学同行、这门学科和美国历史学会的损害而道歉。希望今后的对话可以挽回这种印象。我愿意倾听和学习。

Twenty years ago, in these pages, Lynn Hunt argued “against presentism.” She lamented historians’ declining interest in topics prior to the 20th century, as well as our increasing tendency to interpret the past through the lens of the present. Hunt warned that this rising presentism threatened to “put us out of business as historians.” If history was little more than “short-term . . . identity politics defined by present concerns,” wouldn’t students be better served by taking degrees in sociology, political science, or ethnic studies instead? 20年前,在这个专栏上,林恩-亨特(Lynn Hunt)提出了 “反对当下主义”(against presentism)的问题。她感叹说,历史学家现在对20世纪之前的主题兴趣下降,我们越来越倾向于通过现在的视野来解释过去。亨特警告说,这种不断上升的当下主义情绪有可能 “使我们这些历史学家失业”。如果历史只不过是 “短期的……由当下关切所定义的身份政治”,那么学生们转投社会学、政治学或人类学研究,不是更好吗?

The discipline did not heed Hunt’s warning. From 2003 to 2013, the number of PhDs awarded to students working on topics post-1800, across all fields, rose 18 percent. Meanwhile, those working on pre-1800 topics declined by 4 percent. During this time, the Wall Street meltdown was followed by plummeting undergraduate enrollments in history courses and increased professional interest in the history of contemporary socioeconomic topics. Then came Obama, and Twitter, and Trump. As the discipline has become more focused on the 20th and 21st centuries, historical analyses are contained within an increasingly constrained temporality. Our interpretations of the recent past collapse into the familiar terms of contemporary debates, leaving little room for the innovative, counterintuitive interpretations. 这门学科并没有听从亨特的警告。从2003年到2013年,研究1800年之后课题获得博士学位的学生数量增加了18%。同时,从事1800年以前课题研究的学生下降了4%。在这期间,随着华尔街股市崩溃,选择历史课程的本科生入学率急剧下降,而专业人员对当代社会经济主题的历史兴趣大增。然后是奥巴马、推特和特朗普。随着这门学科更加专注于20和21世纪,历史分析越来越受到即时性的限制。我们对晚近历史的解释逐渐坍塌,陷入当代陈词滥调的辩论中,几乎没有为创新的、反直觉的解释留下任何空间。

This trend toward presentism is not confined to historians of the recent past; the entire discipline is lurching in this direction, including a shrinking minority working in premodern fields. If we don’t read the past through the prism of contemporary social justice issues—race, gender, sexuality, nationalism, capitalism—are we doing history that matters? This new history often ignores the values and mores of people in their own times, as well as change over time, neutralizing the expertise that separates historians from those in other disciplines. The allure of political relevance, facilitated by social and other media, encourages a predictable sameness of the present in the past. This sameness is ahistorical, a proposition that might be acceptable if it produced positive political results. But it doesn’t. 这种走向当下主义的趋势并不局限于近代历史学家;整个学科都在朝这个方向蹒跚前进,甚至包括那些在前现代领域工作的少数人。如果我们不通过当代社会正义的视角来解读过去,不借助种族、性别、性、民族主义、资本主义等棱镜来提出结论,我们从事的历史研究还有任何价值吗?这种新的历史方法往往忽略了人们在他们自己时代的价值观和风俗以及时代变迁的轨迹,使得历史学家失去独特性,泯然于众多学者。在社会和其他媒体的推动下,受到政治相关性的诱惑,我们正在鼓励历史学家以一种可以预测的方式提出过去和现在的同一性(sameness)。但这种同一性是非历史性的,只有当它能产生积极的政治效果时,其结论才是可以接受的。但它并没有带来任何积极的政治效果。

In many places, history suffuses everyday life as presentism; America is no exception. We suffer from an overabundance of history, not as method or analysis, but as anachronistic data points for the articulation of competing politics. The consequences of this new history are everywhere. I traveled to Ghana for two months this summer to research and write, and my first assignment was a critical response to The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story for a forthcoming forum in the American Historical Review. Whether or not historians believe that there is anything new in the New York Times project created by Nikole Hannah-Jones, The 1619 Project is a best-selling book that sits at the center of current controversies over how to teach American history. As journalism, the project is powerful and effective, but is it history? 在许多地方,历史作为一种当下主义,充斥着日常生活;美国也不例外。我们承载了太多的历史,但不是作为方法或分析,而是作为过时的数据,表达竞争性的政治立场。这种新历史的后果随处可见。今年夏天,我到加纳进做了两个月的研究和写作。我的第一个任务就是为了新一期的《美国历史评论》杂志写一篇对《1619计划:新寻根故事》(The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story )的批评性回应。无论历史学家是否相信由尼科尔-汉纳-琼斯(Nikole Hannah-Jones)为《纽约时报》创建的项目有什么新意,《1619计划》本身是一本畅销书,处于当前关于“如何教授美国历史”的争议中心。作为新闻报道,该项目影响力巨大,但它是历史吗?

This new history often ignores the values and mores of people in their own times. 这种新的历史常常忽略人们在自己时代的价值观和风尚。

When I first read the newspaper series that preceded the book, I thought of it as a synthesis of a tradition of Black nationalist historiography dating to the 19th century with Ta-Nehisi Coates’s recent call for reparations. The project spoke to the political moment, but I never thought of it primarily as a work of history. Ironically, it was professional historians’ engagement with the work that seemed to lend it historical legitimacy. Then the Pulitzer Center, in partnership with the Times, developed a secondary school curriculum around the project. Local school boards protested characterizations of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison as unpatriotic owners of “forced labor camps.” Conservative lawmakers decided that if this was the history of slavery being taught in schools, the topic shouldn’t be taught at all. For them, challenging the Founders’ position as timeless tribunes of liberty was “racially divisive.” At each of these junctures, history was a zero-sum game of heroes and villains viewed through the prism of contemporary racial identity. It was not an analysis of people’s ideas in their own time, nor a process of change over time. 当我第一次读到这本书之前的系列报道时,我认为它是19世纪黑人民族主义历史学传统与塔-内西-科茨(Ta-Nehisi Coates)最近呼吁赔偿的综合体。该项目与政治风向有关,但我从未认为它本来是一部历史作品。具有讽刺意味的是,正是专业历史学家对这项工作的参与,使得它似乎具有了历史合法性。接下来,普利策中心(Pulitzer Center)与《泰晤士报》合作,围绕该项目开发了一套中学课程。有些学校的董事会抗议课程将华盛顿、杰斐逊和麦迪逊描述为不爱国的 “强迫劳动营 “的所有者。保守派立法者决定,如果这就是学校所教授的奴隶制历史,那么这个话题根本就不应该被教授。对他们来说,挑战建国先驱作为保护自由的永恒护民官地位,无疑是一种”种族分裂”。在每一个这样的时刻,历史都是一个零和游戏,通过当代种族认同的棱镜来分别英雄和恶棍。它不是对人们在他们自己时代的想法分析,也无法体现历史随时间变化的过程。

In Ghana, I traveled to Elmina for a wedding. A small seaside fishing village, Elmina was home to one of the largest Atlantic slave-trading depots in West Africa. The morning after the wedding, a small group of us met for breakfast at the hotel. As we waited for several members of our party to show up, a group of African Americans began trickling into the breakfast bar. By the time they all gathered, more than a dozen members of the same family—three generations deep—pulled together the restaurant’s tables to dine. Sitting on the table in front of one of the elders was a dog-eared copy of The 1619 Project. 在加纳,我曾去埃尔米纳(Elmina)参加过一个婚礼。埃尔米纳是一个海边的小渔村,也曾是西非最大的大西洋奴隶贸易港之一。婚礼后的第二天早上,我们一小群人相约在酒店吃早餐。等待其他同行到来时,我遇见一群非裔美国人前来用餐。到齐之后,同一家族的十几位成员(三代人)把餐厅里的几张桌子拉到一起用餐。在其中一位长者面前的桌子上,放着一本被翻烂的《1619计划》。

Later that afternoon, my family and I toured Elmina Castle alongside several Ghanaians, a Dane, and a Jamaican family. Our guide gave a well-rehearsed tour geared toward African Americans. American influence was everywhere, from memorial plaques to wreaths and flowers left on the floors of the castle’s dungeons. Arguably, Elmina Castle is now as much an African American shrine as a Ghanaian archaeological or historical site. As I reflected on breakfast earlier that morning, I could only imagine the affirmation and bonding experienced by the large African American family—through the memorialization of ancestors lost to slavery at Elmina Castle, but also through the story of African American resilience, redemption, and the demand for reparations in The 1619 Project. 当天下午,我们一家与几个加纳人、一个丹麦人和一个牙买加家庭一起参观了埃尔米纳城堡。我们的导游为接待非裔美国人进行过精心的排练。从纪念牌到留在城堡地牢地板上的花圈和鲜花,美国的影响无处不在。可以说,埃尔米纳城堡现在既是非洲裔美国人的圣地,又是加纳的考古或历史遗址。当我回想那天早上的早餐时,我只能想象这个庞大的非裔美国家庭所表现的亲密纽带。他们通过纪念在埃尔米纳城堡失去的祖先,也通过《1619项目》中非裔美国人的坚韧、救赎和要求赔偿的故事,如今紧密地联系在一起。

Yet as a historian of Africa and the African diaspora, I am troubled by the historical erasures and narrow politics that these narratives convey. Less than one percent of the Africans passing through Elmina arrived in North America. The vast majority went to Brazil and the Caribbean. Should the guide’s story differ for a tour with no African Americans? Likewise, would The 1619 Project tell a different history if it took into consideration that the shipboard kin of Jamestown’s “20. and odd” Africans also went to Mexico, Jamaica, and Bermuda? These are questions of historical interpretation, but present-day political ones follow: Do efforts to claim a usable African American past reify elements of American hegemony and exceptionalism such narratives aim to dismantle? 然而,作为一名研究非洲、在非洲游历的历史学家,我对这些叙述所传达的狭隘政治与对历史的抹杀深感不安。经过埃尔米纳被贩卖的非洲人中,只有不到百分之一抵达了北美。绝大多数人去了巴西和加勒比地区。对于一个没有非洲裔美国人的旅游团,导游的故事难道不应该有所不同吗?同样,如果《1619计划》考虑到被贩卖到詹姆斯敦(Jamestown)的非洲人中大约”百分之20……零星”的亲属也去了墨西哥、牙买加和百慕大,它是否会讲述一段不同的历史?这些都是历史解释的问题,但当下的政治问题也随之而来:提出一个有用的非裔美国人历史叙事,是否有助于实现政治目标,拆除美国的霸权主义和例外主义?

The Elmina tour guide claimed that “Ghanaians” sent their “servants” into chattel slavery unknowingly. The guide made no reference to warfare or Indigenous slavery, histories that interrupt assumptions of ancestral connection between modern-day Ghanaians and visitors from the diaspora. Similarly, the forthcoming film The Woman King seems to suggest that Dahomey’s female warriors and King Ghezo fought the European slave trade. In fact, they promoted it. Historically accurate rendering of Asante or Dahomean greed and enslavement apparently contradict modern-day political imperatives. 埃尔米纳的导游声称,”加纳人”在不知情的情况下将他们的”仆人”送入奴隶制的虎口。导游没有提到战争或当地土著的奴隶制,因为这些历史会打断现代加纳人和散居地游客的共同祖先假设。同样,即将上映的电影《女皇》似乎暗示,达荷美(Dahomey)的女战士和国王盖佐(Ghezo)曾与欧洲奴隶贸易作斗争。事实上,她们促进了这种贸易。历史上对阿桑特人(Asante)或达荷美人(Dahomean)之贪婪和奴役的准确描述,显然与当下的政治需要矛盾。

Hollywood need not adhere to historians’ methods any more than journalists or tour guides, but bad history yields bad politics. The erasure of slave-trading African empires in the name of political unity is uncomfortably like right-wing conservative attempts to erase slavery from school curricula in the United States, also in the name of unity. These interpretations are two sides of the same coin. If history is only those stories from the past that confirm current political positions, all manner of political hacks can claim historical expertise. 好莱坞不需要像记者或导游那样遵循历史学家的方法,但糟糕的历史会产生糟糕的政治。以政治统一的名义抹去那些曾经贩卖奴隶的非洲帝国,就像美国右翼保守派试图以国家同一的名义从学校课程中抹去奴隶制一样,让人感到不舒服。这些解释是同一枚硬币的两面。如果历史只是那些证实当前政治立场的老故事,那么所有形式的政治黑客都可以声称拥有专业的历史知识。

This is not history; it is dilettantism. 这不是历史;这是在玩弄历史。

Too many Americans have become accustomed to the idea of history as an evidentiary grab bag to articulate their political positions, a trend that can be seen in recent US Supreme Court decisions. The word “history” appears 95 times in Clarence Thomas’s majority opinion overturning New York’s conceal-carry gun law. Likewise, Samuel Alito invokes “history” 67 times in his opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. Despite amicus briefs written by professional historians in both cases (including one co-authored by the AHA and the Organization of American Historians), the court’s majority deploys only those pieces of historical evidence that support their preconceived political biases. 太多的美国人已经习惯于将历史作为阐明其政治立场的证据袋,这种趋势甚至可以从美国最高法院最近的判决中看到。在克拉伦斯-托马斯(Clarence Thomas)论“推翻纽约隐蔽持枪法”的多数派意见中,”历史 “一词出现了95次。同样,塞缪尔-阿利托(Samuel Alito)在推翻 “罗伊诉韦德 “案的意见中援引了67次 “历史”。尽管在这两起案件中,专业历史学家都撰写了非诉讼辩护状(包括由美国历史学家协会和美国历史学家组织共同撰写的辩护状),但法院的多数派只采用了那些支持他们预先设定之政治偏见的历史证据。

The majority decisions are ahistorical. In the conceal-carry case, Justice Thomas cherry-picks historical data, casting aside restrictions in English common law as well as historical examples of limitations on gun rights in the United States to illustrate America’s so-called “tradition” of individual gun ownership rights. Then, Thomas uses this “historical” evidence to support his interpretation of the original meaning of the Second Amendment as it was written in 1791, including the right of individuals (not a “well regulated Militia”) to conceal and carry automatic pistols. In Dobbs v. Jackson, Justice Alito ignores legal precedents punishing abortion only after “quickening.” concluding: “An unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.” This is not history; it is dilettantism. 多数人的决定是不符合历史的。在私藏枪支一案中,托马斯法官挑剔历史数据,把英国普通法中的限制以及美国限制持枪权利的历史实例抛在一边,只为了说明美国所谓的个人持枪权”传统”。然后,托马斯用这些 “历史 “证据来支持他对1791年写的第二修正案的原意的解释,包括个人(而不是 “管理良好的民兵”)隐藏和携带自动手枪的权利。在Dobbs诉Jackson案中,阿利托法官无视只有在”拥有胎动”(“quickening”)之后才惩罚堕胎的法律先例。”从最早期的普通法直到1973年,一直存在着禁止堕胎的不间断传统,违者将受刑事处罚”。”这不是历史,而是在玩弄历史。

In his dissent to NYSRPA v. Bruen, Justice Stephen Breyer disparagingly labels the majority’s approach “law office history.” He recognizes that historians engage in research methods and interpretive approaches incompatible with solving modern-day legal, political, or economic questions. As such, he argues that history should not be the primary measure for adjudicating contemporary legal issues. 在对NYSRPA诉Bruen案的反对意见中,布雷耶法官(Stephen Breyer)轻蔑地将多数人的方法称为”法律办公室历史”。他认识到,历史学家从事的研究方法和解释方法,与所要解决的现代法律、政治或经济问题不相容。因此,他认为,历史不应该成为裁决当代法律问题的主要措施。

Professional historians would do well to pay attention to Breyer’s admonition. The present has been creeping up on our discipline for a long time. Doing history with integrity requires us to interpret elements of the past not through the optics of the present but within the worlds of our historical actors. Historical questions often emanate out of present concerns, but the past interrupts, challenges, and contradicts the present in unpredictable ways. History is not a heuristic tool for the articulation of an ideal imagined future. Rather, it is a way to study the messy, uneven process of change over time. When we foreshorten or shape history to justify rather than inform contemporary political positions, we not only undermine the discipline but threaten its very integrity. 专业历史学家最好注意一下布雷耶的告诫。长期以来,当下一直在悄悄地影响着我们的学科。诚信地做历史研究,需要我们进入创造历史者的世界里去解读过去,而不是通过当下的视角来解释其中的元素。历史问题往往来自于对当下的关切,但过去总是以某种不可预测的方式打断、挑战和抵触当下。历史并不是一个想象理想未来的启发式工具。相反,它是研究某个混乱、不平衡、随时间变化之过程的方式。当我们简化或塑造历史,以证明而不是揭露当代政治立场时,我们不仅破坏了这门学科,而且威胁到它的完整性。

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