Teaching Global History

May 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

globalhistoryThe above image was taken by the the fabulous Jonathan Massey.

Last weekend, thanks to Nori T.,  I was invited to participate in a workshop on how to teach Global History. The conference was hosted at MIT by Mark Jarzombek and Jeffrey Ravel. OK … Global History… always already impossible… as it’s supposed to cover, by implication the whole of the world for all time… no privileging of the diachronic (history) or the synchronic (the globe). So basically what I argued, and I’m surprised that more weren’t arguing the same thing is that this should be a conversation about heuristics. Most people agreed that global history shouldn’t be taught as a series of precedents, most people agreed that one couldn’t possibly cover all that’s suggested by “global history,” but for the most part, for me anyway pedagogical strategies thus far have centered around what we shouldn’t and can’t do.

The old spectre of Lynne Cheney and the culture wars came up—and thus the “global” was invoked as a positive category, something that we could somehow separate from the dirtier force of “globalizaton” as if diversity was the solution, or at the very least a soothing ointment. But it seems to me the problem, or wound as it were is still ill defined. For me the problem isn’t that we haven’t covered the world, or even that we can’t access all of the information about all of the world, but rather how we are implicated as practitioners (since at least 74% of those at the workshop teach architects or engineers) who either witness or play a role in shaping the conditions of the world.

Others argued that we need to develop a global database… but then isn’t that what wikipedia is for? Granted we need a deeper archive but as far as indexing goes it seems to me not just a good model but also a good infrastructure (save for all the storage space we would need) for all of the images and stuff.

OK… these are just some initial thoughts jotted down very early in the morning before jury duty. Will think about this more.


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