Just the Facts: The Fantasy of a Historical Science

Friday, January 2, 2015: 1:20 PM
New York Ballroom East (Sheraton New York)
Ethan Kleinberg, Wesleyan University
This paper seeks to explore recent attempts to move the discipline of history into closer proximity to the "hard sciences" and further away from the humanities. This can be seen in recent trends such as the use of evolutionary biology or neuroscience as means of historical explanation but also in the turn to "digital history" which itself can be seen as a form of neo-empiricism. I will look to moments of historical intersection between "history" and the "hard sciences" to demonstrate areas of convergence and divergence in disciplinary method but also to highlight the recurring fantasy of a historical science that represses the more imaginative and/or impressionistic aspects of the historians craft. This all will then be placed in the context of our current (perceived) crisis of the humanities and the role and place of history as a discipline within this "crisis."