Reason or Reasoning? Clio or Siva?

Seth, Sanjay. 2004. Reason or Reasoning? Clio or Siva? Social Text, 78, pp. 85-101. ISSN 0164-2472 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Everyone, we moderns believe(d), has a history, though not everyone has historiography. The West developed a tradition of history writing; the Muslim world and the Chinese are admitted to have had such a tradition,
albeit in an underdeveloped form; but most cultures had myths and religious epics instead of history writing, even if they sometimes confused the former for the latter. But because everyone nonetheless had a history, that history could be narrated in the terms of a rational historiography that would redescribe this past in terms alien to those whose past it was. Their own forms of recording and relating to the past—be they myths, legends, religious epics, or other—could serve, at best, as (rather unreliable) raw materials in the reconstruction of this past. This did not occasion any discomfort, for these indigenous intellectual traditions were held to have demonstrated that they were unequal to the task of recording and narrating
their history by mixing myth with reality, wish with fact, gods with men. And the epistemic commitments that suggested that these were people
incapable of representing their own past were the same as those which further suggested that these people were backward. Or vice versa: that these people still belonged to the past was indicated, among other things, by their inability to properly represent their past.

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[translated and published in Portuguese as “Razão ou Raciocínio? Clio ou Shiva?” in Historia da Historigrafia, No. 11, Abril 2013]

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Date Deposited:

12 Aug 2015 10:25

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 12:30

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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