The Presidential Address at the Annual Meeting: “Histories for a Less National Age”
Friday, January 3, 5:00 p.m., Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Salon 2
What does the rapidly changing spatial organization of our world imply for historians? In his presidential address at the annual meetng, Kenneth Pomeranz considers two aspects of this question. First, he notes the increased attention to what is sometimes called the "non- West" and its histories. Second, but probably more important, is his discussion of the increasing skepticism over our most common frames of reference: the nation, which long dominated the framing of professional history, and area studies units, which were once assumed to represent distinct "civilizations." The talk considers how various other units of historical analysis—oceans, diasporas, trade networks, and the world as a whole—as well as new strategies of transregional comparison, manifest themselves in our research and teaching. The discussion of teaching builds upon a survey of 218 history departments and contrasts it with the results of similar surveys of anthropology, sociology, and political science off erings. Pomeranz argues that curricula are thus far "globalizing" in ways that often do not take advantage of our new research directions and may even work against communicating their insights. The address closes with a brief sketch of how a conventional area survey (of East Asia) might be reconfigured to focus attention on how regions are made and unmade historically; Pomeranz argues that this approach combines many of the benefits of old and new "containers" for history, and can also help highlight why historical thinking is essential for navigating the contemporary world.
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