Power and the narrative of history

When thinking about the History with a capital H, you may not want to re-write it — or take part in its rewriting, argues professor Isa Blumi in a recent lecture. To join History you will become part of a large narrative controlled and paid for by powerful forces who have a stake in owning the story. 

Joining this narrative, your tales will be flattened and twisted to fit its scope and shape.  What gives these forces such power is how they are able to control the shape of the stories but also set the limits of debate. 

If you want to join this History, you better be careful what you wish for, Blumi argues. You will need to conform to civilization not on your terms, but on the terms of the narrative. This will inform what you speak, how to speak it and basically what points to make. You become one of the categorized people, he says, the counted ones who could be called to pay taxes, fight in wars and stand at attention. 

So, what did he tell this group of largely undergraduates to do? Don’t follow people like him, he said. He’ll just create his own metanarrative and force you to mold your story to fit the one he’s created.

What gives the people outside this Historical narrative power, he argues, is the ability to read it for clues. No matter who creates the narrative. Understand the master story for what it is: an argument to power, justifying and expanding its scope. Active reading and engaged thinking will teach you how to understand the narrative for what it is and whom it is for.