Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Inclusive history: problems for an elite profession

Mike McDonnell, Hannah Forsyth and Tim Allender
For AHA conference

History ‘from below’ made its mark in the mid-twentieth century so that the discipline now readily encompasses groups it previously marginalised. And yet, while history can appear inclusive in this sense, historians themselves tend to be relatively culturally homogenous. This paper draws on research that explores engagement with history in diverse settings (high schools in regions from multi-cultural south-west Sydney to Aboriginal remote Wilcannia) to consider how the practice of history itself – what makes a good historian, or the construction of historical merit – might include or exclude some members of society. The question, we know, is important, for identification with a historical past is key to citizenship and social inclusion. Is history – even history from below – still written by society’s ‘winners’? While this paper links to previous studies in history education and raises some questions about pedagogy and curricula, we aim in addition to explore the question of what an inclusive history might look like in all the ways history is presented and practiced. In this, we seek to look beyond traditions of social and oral history, which, our research suggests, continues to exclude some members of society.

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