History is related to historiography, which is concerned with how history gets to be written

I have an interest in the history of land use decision making around the world. A related topic is space use – which concerns itself among other things with things going on inside our heads.

History is related to historiography, which is concerned with how history gets to be written. [1]

When I speak of historiography, I think of many studies including, by way of example:

Writing off the Rural West: Globalization, Governments, and the Transformation of Rural Communities (2009) edited by Roger Epp and Dave Whitson

Inhabited: Wildness and the Vitality of the Land (2021) by Phillip Vannini and April Vannini

On the Other Side(s) of 150: Untold Stories and Critical Approaches to History, Literature, and Identity in Canada (2021) edited by Sarah Henzi, and Linda M. Morra [2]

An excerpt from a blurb for the latter study reads:

On the Other Side(s) of 150 explores the different literary, historical and cultural legacies of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations. It asks vital questions about the ways that histories and stories have been suppressed and invites consideration about what happens once a commemorative moment has passed.

The Myths That Made America; An Introduction to American Studies (2014) by Heike Paul

Pure America: Eugenics and the Making of Modern Virginia (2021) by Elizabeth Catte [3]

An excerpt (Acknowledgments, p. 197) from the above-noted study about the history of eugenics in Virginia, by Elizabeth Catte, who is also author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia (2018), reads:

Acknowledgments are typically written to recognize the valuable labor and support of individuals and institutions that contributed to the writing process. This recognition will follow, but before that, I want to use this space to make other declarations that embrace the other meaning of “acknowledgment,” that of an acceptance of truth.

I am writing this in a moment that is filled with eugenic ideas surrounding the United States’ management of the COVID-19 crisis. The worst consequences of COVID-19 are suffered disproportionately by Black, brown, and Native peoples, poor people, disabled people, and the elderly. To the indifferent public and leaders chafing under their own inabilities, this suffering is acceptable. These victims, their actions imply, were not worth protecting and they had no right to expect a duty of care. Those who recovered quickly from COVID-19 and those who haven’t yet been infected are often framed as biologically “better” than the stricken and the dead. Every cold question contained in this book, every frame of reference for determining the relative worth of a human’s life, are now, as ever, informing the logic of the powerful in naked and craven ways.

3 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 1

    Other great books come to mind:

    Twilight in Hazard: An Appalachian Reckoning (2021) by Alan Maimon

    An excerpt from a blurb reads:

    When Alan Maimon got the assignment in 2000 to report on life in rural Eastern Kentucky, his editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal told him to cover the region “like a foreign correspondent would.”

    And indeed, when Maimon arrived in Hazard, Kentucky fresh off a reporting stint for the New York Times’s Berlin bureau, he felt every bit the outsider. He had landed in a place in the vice grip of ecological devastation and a corporate-made opioid epidemic – a place where vote-buying and drug-motivated political assassinations were the order of the day.

    While reporting on the intense religious allegiances, the bitter, bare-knuckled political rivalries, and the faltering attempts to emerge from a century-long coal-based economy, Maimon learns that everything – and nothing – you have heard about the region is true. And far from being a foreign place, it is a region whose generations-long struggles are driven by quintessentially American forces.

    Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland (2019) by Jonathan M. Metzl

    An extract from a blurb reads:

    But as Dying of Whiteness shows, the right-wing policies that resulted from this white backlash put these voters’ very health at risk – and, in the end, threaten everyone’s well-being. Physician and sociologist Jonathan M. Metzl travels across America’s heartland seeking to better understand the politics of racial resentment and its impact on public health. Interviewing a range of Americans, he uncovers how racial anxieties led to the repeal of gun control laws in Missouri, stymied the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee, and fueled massive cuts to schools and social services in Kansas. Although such measures promised to restore greatness to white America, Metzl’s systematic analysis of health data dramatically reveals they did just the opposite: these policies made life sicker, harder, and shorten in the very populations they purported to aid.

    Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering (2021) by Scott A. Small

    An excerpt from a blurb reads:

    Until recently, most everyone – memory scientists included – believed that forgetting served no purpose. But new research in psychology, neurobiology, medicine, and computer science tells a different story. Forgetting is not a failure of our minds. It’s not even a benign glitch. It is, in fact, good for us – and, alongside memory, it is a required function for our minds to work best. Forgetting benefits our cognitive and creative abilities, emotional well-being, and even our personal and societal health. As frustrating as a typical lapse can be, it’s precisely what opens up our minds to making better decisions, experiencing joy and relationships, and flourishing artistically.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 2

    On the Other Side(s) of 150: Untold Stories and Critical Approaches to History, Literature, and Identity in Canada (2021) edited by Sarah Henzi, and Linda M. Morra and Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland (2019) by Jonathan M. Metzl share certain conclusions.

    One such conclusion concerns the practice of facing life solely on the basis of some strongly held principle.

    The conclusion is that, on occasion – for example, with regard to refusal to follow science-based recommendations regarding social distancing and vaccinations in the face of COVID-19 – adherence to such a principle can be fatal.

    There are several other examples that a person can choose from.

  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 3

    Elizabeth Catte is also author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia (2018).

    A blurb reads:

    In 2016 headlines declared Appalachia ground zero for America’s “forgotten tribe” of white working-class voters. Following the presidential election, demystifying Appalachia and locating the roots of its dysfunction quickly seemed to become a national industry, shoring up the success of J.D. Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy and the author’s rise to fame as the media’s favorite working-class whisperer. With What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, Elizabeth Catte offers a much-needed perspective on Appalachia, and a frank, ferocious assessment of America’s recent fascination with the people and problems of the region summed up in shorthand as ‘Trump Country.’

    A Publishers Weekly Review (I’ve added paragraph breaks) at the Toronto Public Library website reads:

    Catte, a historian from East Tennessee, presents a thoughtful insider’s perspective on Appalachia to counteract the stereotypes associated with the region. She believes that Appalachia – a region of 25 million people encompassing 700,000 square miles across 13 states – is too often presented as a monolithic, dysfunctional “other America” or “white ghetto.”

    Catte’s Appalachia is instead a “battleground, where industry barons, social reformers, and workers” wage an intergenerational class war. She offers a brief but nuanced history of the region that covers the post-Civil War arrival of industry, the early-20th-century labor uprisings against exploitative coal companies, government intervention during the 1960s War on Poverty, and the oversize role played in Appalachia’s economy by the current “prison-industrial complex.”

    Catte also effectively refutes what she refers to as Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance’s “myth” – that white Appalachians share a distinct, homogenous Scots-Irish heritage, rather than a fusion of various European ethnic groups.

    To highlight the region’s diversity, she observes that for the past three decades African-Americans and Hispanics have contributed most to the area’s population growth and that West Virginia, the only entirely Appalachian state, has the nation’s highest concentration of transgender teens. Though this work could have been more tightly edited, it succeeds in providing a richer, more complex view of a much-maligned region. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


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