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The Resilient Historian (TLC 2010)

Author: Richard Hall

Type: Conference Presentation


The world is experiencing disruption. Energy security, climate change and governmental targets for carbon emissions, and massive public sector debt all frame our daily existence. Organisations like DEMOS, and practitioners like Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transitions movement, have begun to articulate models for managing such disruption, focused upon notions of resilience. Hopkins argues that resilience is “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganise while undergoing change, so as to retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks”. He focuses upon the local and the historic, and demands that we empower people to become self-organising. The key for Hopkins is that resilience is more crucial than sustainability – we need to be able to manage shock, disruption or vulnerability, and then to find alternatives at an appropriate scale. It also means that civil action rather than political action is the key to enfranchisement.

Higher education is not immune from these disruptions, and yet there has been little work on how it might address their impact. This might involve individuals developing an ability to be, to co-exist, to survive and to thrive, within a range of communities. In this context Habermas’ “lifeworld”, or those informal, unmarketised domains of life, that are social, voluntary, and truly participatory are important in situating the historian within a curriculum for resilience. The key facets are her/his ability to work with a range of peers to define problems and solutions, to make decisions and take action, and to receive feedback. A key outcome may be the ways in which historians can help to co-produce civil society. In this workshop, attendees will be invited to discuss the affects of disruption on the practice of History, and the possibilities for developing the role of the resilient historian.

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(Powerpoint Presentation) Presentation