Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Book notes: historians as time's monster?

In The Guardian, Maya Jasanoff takes note of Time's Monster: How History makes History, in which Stanford historian Priya Satia argues that history since the Enlightenment has mostly served to legitimize empire and global white supremacy

Morality was defined in terms of the progress brought about by the unfolding of history. History revealed the institutions and the peoples that had “become obsolete”. Obsolescence, novelist Amitav Ghosh has observed, is “modernity’s equivalent of perdition and hellfire”. The “most potent words of damnation” in the modern world, Ghosh has noted, “is the malediction of being on the ‘wrong side of history’”.

The Enlightenment’s obsession with progress, combined with an unshakable attachment to moral universalism, Satia suggests, helped “normalise the violence of imperial conquest”. Colonialism came to be seen as morally just, a means of bringing progress to non-European peoples, freeing them from their own barbarism.
Follow @CmedMoore