Anthropological Approaches to History
There are long held tensions between the disciplines of anthropology and history, although they share some common epistemological concerns.
Increasingly, anthropologists have incorporated historical accounts towards expanding ethnographic possibilities, and to explore theoretical questions of continuity, social change and periodisation, and to examine colonialism as a set of historical conditions. As part of a historicised practice, anthropologists have challenged assumptions about relationship between myth and history, and explored complex temporalities.
In turn, historians have borrowed from anthropological methodologies to underpin radical ideas about microhistories, oral history practices, which have also contributed towards the anthropological project. More recently, both historians and anthropologists have turned to memory as a way of accessing the past through practice, policy and the emotions.
This course sets up these questions through three interconnected threads: the history of anthropology, historical anthropology, and anthropologies of history.
We examine the different kinds of evidence that may be used to understand the past, and how the past is made sense of in the present, through archives, images and material culture. Together this provides us with a model for approaching the past anthropologically, in order to gain ethnographic understandings of the dynamic processes of historicity in everyday contexts, where the past can be deployed, imagined and evidenced.