Postmodernism - gravedigger of traditional history?
Essay from the year 2002 in the subject History - Basics, grade: A+, University of Auckland (Department of History), course: Seminar - Major Problems in Historical Method, Stage III (5.-6. Semester), 6 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: 'In our contemporary or postmodern world, history conceived of as an empirical research method based upon the belief in some reasonably accurate correspondence between the past, its interpretation and its narrative representation is no longer a tenable conception of the task of the historian.' Wrong, Mr Munslow, although otherwise you are perfectly right! One need not go into detailed explanation of this somewhat opaque retort of mine to place a sceptical question mark after the above quote. The mere presence of contention inevitably clouds the clear, straightforward set of circumstances seemingly implied in Munslow's statement. Even if there is only one oppositional voice to his view, how can there be a 'contemporary or postmodern world' that literally takes all of us into account, making it a storehouse of generally accepted ideas, making it 'our' property. Given that perspectives other than the 'postmodern' do exist, could it not be that 'facts', including those of an 'empirical research method' and its guiding beliefs, are moulded just as well by perspectival interpretation? Thus, is the 'task of the historian' really conceptualised in the way Munslow describes it? If not - if it is itself a deliberately created spectre invoked only to be subsequently exorcised in the intellectual conflict about what constitutes history and what this discipline has to deal with - do we have to stroll from the beaten path at all? Are Clio's followers so helplessly entangled in reveries that they need to be awakened from them? These questions, and their echoing connotations, sketch out the frame within which my discussion of postmodernist ideas and their validity for the practice of history will take place. It is well-nigh self-evident: we are moving on highly theoretical ground. Although postmodernist critique is aimed at methodological problems of the historical discipline, it departs from the very battlefields of occidental philosophy. What is reality? Is there any ontological truthfulness 'out there,' beyond our representations of the world? Postmodern answers to these questions do not only undermine the intellectual premises of a self-indulgent group of academics, burdened with theory [...]
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