Fragments, Ruins, Artifacts, Torsos
Till, Karen E. (2001) Fragments, Ruins, Artifacts, Torsos. Historical Geography, 29 . pp. 70-73. ISSN 1091-6458
If we are to practice empathetic historical geographies, we must be willing to dig. For Walter Benjamin, the act of digging was a politically radical one intended to undermine the nationalist project of writing history. Benjamin describes how the past is always constructed in the present, thereby challenging the idea that time progresses forward in a linear fashion. Indeed, as Jacques Derrida and others remind us, the past (like death) does not literally exist. What exists is the process of creating traces from the past that are “strained toward the future across a fabled present, figures we inscribe because they can outlast us, beyond the present of their inscription.” This is true for the practice of historical geography, just as much as it is for other social practices including heritage productions or the construction of memorials.
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