So far to go…Posted: June 17, 2008
This is pure silliness. I continue to be surprised and disappointed (perhaps it is my youth and newness to this history “thing”?) that people (even academics!) continue to degrade gender (or sexuality or race or whatever) as a category of historical analysis. Yet it really shouldn’t. Considering my undergraduate university didn’t have a single women’s history class until my sophomore year (in its 100 plus year history). And, you know, you’ve got eminent historians writing books whose central point is that gender, class, and race based studies are mucking up the historical profession.
As I know from my many trips to the history section of bookstores, there is clearly no shortage of (unreformed?) ‘traditional’ historical studies. They clearly remain popular for both historians to write and readers to consume. This is no room for newer, cutting edge studies of race, class, or gender?
Surely there is. This is not to degrade general surveys that have a broad scope. But such surveys are better informed when they have a broad range of “narrower” studies to inform them. Studying how gender was defined in the 18th century, for example, tells us more than how men and women thought of themselves (because clearly this is not an important thing to recover, in and of itself); it also tells us about “broader” political and social relationships.
There is room out there for a variety of historical voices. I can never understand why people go to the effort of trying to shut some up, instead of supporting the ones they prefer.