Here’s a fun game: identify as many items from the image that signal the teaching of U.S. History is part of a larger episteme, i.e. implicit ‘rules of formation’ which govern what constitutes legitimate forms of knowledge for a particular cultural period.
When we tell a story about the past are we liberating our understandings or building a set of prison walls to keep our understandings captive? Does historical knowledge become our passport to explore or, like a bad 007 plot, serve as our license to kill. And if we build up a set of institutions and systems to enshrine and police that knowledge and codify its ways of storytelling, how do we prevent it from becoming a Frankenstein’s monster of the same stories repeated in a cycle of self-enforcing orthodoxy? Well, for starters, open the windows and unlock the doors, and breathe that autumn air. A whole world of stories awaits us out there, and even with episode 50 of History Against the Grain, may it always be true that our baskets of knowledge never fill up.
Click to hear Episode 50 Epistemes
Sources Referenced and Items of Interest
Rachel Adams, “Foucault: Archaeology of Knowledge”
“Richard Stengel, “Two of America’s Leading Historians Look at the Nation’s Founding Once Again — to Understand It in All Its Complexity” (September 21, 2021 New York Times)
“These two guys have written the same book over and over again for 30 years and still get reviewed in the Times. Can’t tell if I’m more annoyed or frustrated by it.”Jared Hardest