American Historical Review

The new issue of the American Historical Review (April 2006) arrived today.  As I perused the table of contents I was struck by the titles of three of the five essays.  They are as follows:

"The Disruptive Comforts of Drag: (Trans) Gender Performances among Prisoners of War in Russia, 1914-1920" by Alon Rachamimov

"The Disenchantment of Magic: Spells, Charms, and Superstition in Early European Witchcraft Literature" by Michael D. Bailey

"Talking Toads and Chinless Ghosts: The Politics of ‘Superstitious’ Rumors in the People’s Republic of China, 1961-1965" by S. A. Smith

Now how does one come to focus on such topics?  These subjects are so intriguing that I might actually take a chance and read these articles – or at least start the first few pages of each piece.

4 comments… add one
  • Kevin Levin Apr 26, 2006 @ 18:55

    Thanks so much for writing and I think you make an excellent point. My point re: the imaginative element of the historian’s craft was meant to suggest the revisionist possibilities.

  • Anonymous Apr 26, 2006 @ 18:36

    These sorts of articles are extremely focused, but they are the building blocks for revisionist history. One could conceivably use the article on Chinese ghosts as a building block to talk about the different cultural trends that led to the Cultural Revoluion. Perhaps widespread belief in traditional Chinese ghost tales also involved a belief in the Emperor and the Mandate of Heaven. Viewed from this angle, the Cultural Revolution is Mao’s attempt to retain control of the Communist Party, but is resonant amongst the masses because they retain beliefs that have not been influenced by Communist propaganda and theory. Similar things could be imagined for the other two articles.
    Taken by themselves, these articles seem absurd, but to dismiss them out of hand is to ignore larger cultural trends in favor of sticking with the same boring story as before. I am sure someone who was not familiar with Civil War could say the same thing about Kevin’s articles, scoffing at how someone could write about the cultural landscape and memory surrounding the Crater.

  • Kevin Levin Apr 26, 2006 @ 15:42

    Or perhaps it is a reflection of just how imaginative the study of history can be. I assume that Prof. Rachaminov has cornered the market Trans-Gender performances between the years 1914-1920.

  • Steve Apr 26, 2006 @ 15:11

    Must be a slow month at the dissertation panels.

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