Has anyone noticed a curious flatness among many who profess to be historians? It is often linked in with particularly virulent expressions of disciplinary chauvinism, but you get it as:

a. An aversion to theoretical concerns, or if they do appear, the proponent treats them like the best thing since the invention of the wheel.

b. The contextual fetish. Everything can be explained by context – someone’s ideas, their changes of position, contradiction, type of breakfast, how long they wear their underwear … Apart from the simple points that contexts are somewhat tricky to access and that texts transcend their contexts in all manner of ways, the contextual fetish functions like an interpretive straightjacket, preventing you from asking the really interesting questions.

About these ads