Monthly Archives: October 2009

Francisco de Goya

Perro Enterrado en Arena (1819-1823)
Museo Nacional del Prado

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Jacopo de’ Barbari

Still Life with Partridge, Steel Gauntlets and Cross-Bow Bolts (1504)
Alte Pinakothek (Munich, Germany)
painting on limewood panel

Editorial: I have had the pleasure of seeing this in person. Whao. Every time I stare at this painting my mind heats up a few degrees. How can items so obviously violent be rendered in such peace and elegance?

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African Proverb

Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunters.

It may help to accept as axiomatic the notion that history is a worthwhile pursuit that produces a useful product. I can wrestle with the fairness of this statement later. For now I consider the idea that history is written by the victors. Other posts that dance around this topic include quotes from Orwell, Faulkner, and Kundera.
Do a nation and its writers create a history that justifies the rightness of its actions? Well, after smashing through Tunisia and creaming their enemies the Romans could (and did) portray the defeated Carthaginians as miserable barbarians. We don’t know how the poor (dead) historians in Carthage would have told the story. We see the same imbalance in the narratives about the colonization of the Americas, where European destruction and domination were repackaged as discovery. As we have been taught by Subaltern Studies this does not mean there are not alternative histories that undercut the dominant history, for example feminist history, class history, ethnic history, etc. The joy in looking at this closely is in being able to suss out the public and private mechanisms that serve the purpose of promoting the central history and burying the marginal histories: nationally standardized systems of education, production of state ceremonies and pastimes, state systems of accounting and archiving, and ginormous news agencies. Keep that in mind next time you look at a high school curriculum, watch a helicopter land at the White House, sit down for Thanksgiving, file your taxes, or read a newspaper. It is all quite deliberate!

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