From the 123rd Annual Meeting column of the November 2008 issue of Perspectives on History
on Saturday, January 3, 2009
“The Task of the Historian”
After the presentation of awards and honors at the General Meeting held on Saturday, January 3, 2009, AHA President Gabrielle M. Spiegel (Johns Hopkins Univ.) will deliver her presidential address. In the address, entitled “The Task of the Historian,” Spiegel will open with a review of the rise and apparent decline of the “linguistic turn” in historical writing. Offering an analysis of the psychological roots of poststructuralism as a response to the Holocaust and its aftermath, she will consider what this can tell us about what might remain valuable in linguistic-turn historiography, even as a new, rising generation of historians turns its attention to such questions as transnationalism, diaspora studies, postcolonialism, migration, and immigration. Spiegel will argue that to the extent that these emerging fields of contemporary historiography share with poststructuralism a concern with absent memory and the problematics of displacement, they can profit from some of the fundamental insights of poststructuralist historiography.
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