In light of these trends, historical thought as such finds itself at the center of political contestations across the globe. What history is, how it develops, its very meaning and relevance are questions which practicing historians and theorists of history must address in a world in which the “end” of history has proved no end at all. In response, this panel addresses the following questions: What historical categories are in need of revision? To what extent must fundamental conceptions of event and structure, narration and metaphor, memory and history be rethought? What new possibilities of historical meaning are available through renewed philosophical-historical, historiographical, and metahistorical critique?
The papers brought together in this panel cohere with recent theoretical work by investigating such questions across a variety of temporal, geographical, and political boundaries, from East Asia, to the United States, to Modern Europe. Taken together, they rethink central historiographical concepts and argue, in ways that often refract and create productive tension, for new ways to conceive of and write history. They engender necessary theoretical reflection on the place, purpose, and burden of history writing in an age that sees history distorted for all manner of political ends. Such engagements with the shifting theoretical boundaries of history are essential for the discipline of history as a whole, and are of particular interest to practitioners whose encounter with theory is inseparable from their work as historians. This panel thus serves as a catalyst for historians to reexamine, at the most basic level, our conceptions of the past and our means for its representation.