Yet Another Effort, Historians, If You Would Become Transnational: Critical Perspectives from within Transnational History

AHA Session 220
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Grand Ballroom C (Hilton Atlanta, Second Floor)
Choi Chatterjee, California State University, Los Angeles
The Terrain of Sovereignty: Transnational, Intimate
Brian Connolly, Institute for Advanced Study
Migration, Empire, and Transnational History
Paul Alexander Kramer, Vanderbilt University

Session Abstract

Transnational approaches have been so resoundingly celebrated in virtually every subfield of the discipline of history that they have avoided much of the criticism that was essential to the development of earlier innovative approaches, such as cliometrics, social history, and cultural history. This is unfortunate for transnational history, since it faces methodological and conceptual challenges as great as any previous subfield, challenges that cannot be addressed in the form of praise (or condemnation). The political impact of transnational history has possibly also been muted by a celebration that may verge on co-optation. If transnational historians are challenging the epistemological foundations of the nation state, ‘world-is-flat’ globalization, and many other pillars of the current neoliberal order, then why does a profession inextricably situated in this world order continue to celebrate rather than transnational history? Perhaps, as Brian Connolly (also one of the presenters) has suggested, transnational history is even one of the ways that historians have adapted and reconciled themselves to -- or perhaps even become complicit in -- our era of big data, from mass surveillance to the digital humanities. This roundtable brings together five practitioners of transnational history -- four presenters and a session chair -- for a session of criticism and self-criticism that will, we hope, help develop transnational history into the critical approach many of its practitioners hope it will become.

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