Silencing the Past : Power and the Production of History Paperback
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 224 pages, illustrations
- Publisher: Beacon Press
- Publication Date: 30/03/2015
- Category: General & world history
- ISBN: 9780807080535
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Review by Artymedon
How does power influences the production of history? Michel-Rolph Trouillot sharply questions historical narratives, historical myths or creations. From the historical significance of the story of the Alamo in Texas to the heroism of Davy Crockett, tirelessly, Trouillot questions who controls the narrative. How "Remember the Alamo" when defeating Mexican General Santa Anna supersedes the victory narrative of the later at the Alamo when, truthfully or not, it is uttered by Americans at the battle of San Jacinto in 1836. Trouillot questions the methods used by revisionist analysis of the Jewish Holocaust when revisionist pundits, appointed officials or historians try to empirically reduce the number of victims from 6 million to 1 million who were slaughtered because of their religion. The revisionists doubt the existence of an Holocaust altogether because of their belief in objectivism as an historical methodology. To the contrary for moral constructivists, one victim is, by itself, enough to demonstrate such a morally unbearable crime and therefore one can posit the Holocaust as a mental construct that can explain what many experienced during WWII: mass deportation, gas chambers, systematic extermination and the German death machinery. He also examines how the narrative of Slavery is most famously commented upon in the Southern United States that morphs, as a subject of debate, into the apex of a Civil war being thus collectively more vividly remembered throughout the world, as much as a dreaded institution, as the shared experience, by both North and South, that forged a nation. Evidence, however, shows that slave numbers were much higher in the Caribbean slave societies or that the institution itself survived the 13th amendment by twenty three long years in Brazil. Facts that are less commented than the dominant narrative of Slavery in the world's shared collective memory, as the memory of the sugar plantation system in the Caribbean islands or in Brazil fade away due to them dying down when the world economy moved away from these regions and this mode of coerced production. Looking at individual or collective, implicit or explicit memory, Trouillot asks the reader to question these silences. As he senses that we are inundated with competing narratives, he ultimately finds it is being somewhat misguided to analyze these narratives to make sense of history without also recognizing when a fact is not told or, supreme expression of power, political or economical, when facts are kept, deliberately, under a cloak of silence.Very important book for anyone armed with critical thinking and emotional intelligence of the past.