Journal Spotlight: History of the Present

history of the present journalHistory of the Present, launched in 2010, is devoted to history as a critical endeavor. Its aim is twofold: to create a space in which scholars can reflect on the role history plays in establishing categories of contemporary debate by making them appear inevitable, natural or culturally necessary; and to publish work that calls into question certainties about the relationship between past and present that are taken for granted by the majority of practicing historians.

In 2012, the Journal was awarded “Best New Journal” by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.

While the editors of HOP continue to curate exciting content, they have recently put together an exceptional special issue.

From one of the editors, Brian Connolly: “[Issue 6.2] asks how the violence of the archives of slavery contributes to the production of a history of our present. What is at stake in revisiting the devastation and death contained in the documents of slavery? How does a critical relationship to these archives of death and destruction not only unsettle our present but help think through liberated futures. In thinking through the linguistic, geographic, and representational logics of our archival reading practices, while attending to the ways in which our understanding or archives of slavery themselves—sites of lack or excess or both—all of the authors offer provocative meditations on how to reconceptualize histories of slavery through reimagined relations to the archive.”

The editors identified a group of contributors, who received the following prompt and were asked to submit essays.

“In a recent article, ‘Venus in Two Acts,’ Saidiya Hartman provocatively limns the tension between the violence of slavery and particular historical and orientations toward the archive.  In doing so, Hartman calls for ‘critical fabulation,’ which entails attempts ‘to jeopardize the status of the event, to displace the received or authorized account, and to imagine what might have happened or might have been said or might have been done…. The intent of this practice is not to give voice to the slave, but rather to imagine what cannot be verified, a realm of experience which is situated between two zones of death—social and corporeal death—and to reckon with the precarious lives which are visible only in the moment of their disappearance.’”

“Hartman, then, traces a paradoxical relation to the archive—it is both the site of the possibility of history and the site of the failure of such a project. Given this unresolvable paradox, how does one go about writing the history of slavery with an acute awareness of the limitations of the archive, not as the source of histories of slavery but as the failure of those histories to adequately represent the experience?”

The issue’s contributors include Anjali Arondekar, Brian Connolly, Marisa Fuentes, Saidiya Hartman, David Kazanjian, Seth Moglen, Jennifer Morgan, and Stephanie Smallwood.

This exciting issue is available now on JSTOR and in print. You can also purchase a single issue copy. We hope you will take a look!