Why would a historian be so famous? - EROL GÖKA

Why would a historian be so famous?

The state, which we could possibly refer to as the “popularization of history,” has probably been grabbing your attention for a while now, as it has mine. The historical-religious novels, movies and TV series are easily written and find takers just as easily, but unfortunately have nothing much to do with the truth… (Surely there are some really good ones like Ahmet Turgut's novels, TV series such as “Diriliş” (Resurrection) and “Filinta,” which I too follow, but they are almost like an oasis in the desert). For those of us who never even think about their own personal biographies, we have an incredible desire to be dipped in and out of history, in other words, the desire to plaster ourselves with history… Professional historians giving into offers and taking stage - despite knowing that it is never compatible with historian rigor - in an attempt to show off in fields outside their expertise… with history falling - almost - to the level of street trade, selling like hot cakes.…

I have been studying the historical psychology of Turks for years. I learned - even if little - what a tough profession historiography is, what relentless method problems they deal with. Such peculiarities on the market in the name of history have nothing to do with academic historiography, and make no substantial contribution to our knowledge of history. Furthermore, the harm of plastering popular knowledge everywhere as the truth, are too many to count. The interesting thing is that, this is prevailing worldwide; it is not specific to us alone. Not everything is as bad as it seems, even our current state, contains a positive quality. As we walk around, making a mess of history, serious thinkers rack their brains over the reasons of our state and mirror us so that we can see ourselves.

David Blight from the Yale University Department of History calls the table of increased interest in history “memory boom.” According to him, a memory boom similar to the one today was seen between 1890 and 1920. Blight who says that the reasons were the fall of empires, establishment of new nation-states, industrial and urban alienation, newly created traditions and common monument erection activities, celebration days that fill the calendars and the concentration of intellectuals on memory studies, states that the current memory book has 10 reasons. Let us take a look:

1.Violence reached its peak in the 20th century. Despite the progress in human rights and even though human life became extended, it made it into history as a black mark in terms of understanding the evil inside the people of our time.

2. The Holocaust has become the basic symbol of the historical memory awareness. Holocaust-related studies and commemorations, monuments, museums, have become the subject of historiography and civil historiography worldwide.

3. Anniversary awareness had set in. The second century of the French Revolution and many other major anniversaries waiting in line…

4. The end of the Cold War between 1989 and 1991 politicized discourses on identity and memory, which led to an increase in the number of these discourses. It had become clear that one function of the Cold War era was to “kill the memory.”

5. With the end of the grand narratives period and objective information no longer being so readily mentioned, numerous new opinions and theories emerged in the post-modern times. Relativism almost paved the way for a new history boom.

6. The integration of internalization based on national concerns post-Cold War combined with increased pluralism and variety led to culture wars. An obvious contradiction emerged between the old museology understanding and the new state of multiculturalism.
7. With government supports, commercial touristic activities that developed for the fields of history and culture became one of the fastest growing sectors. Particularly the increase in the number of highly educated people in developed countries, who may have spare time and the financial means to be able to contribute to culture unlike in the past, has contributed to cultural heritage tourism and the objectification of the memory.
8. Movies, novels and popular stories being more easily embraced and favored by the people have shaken mass culture's trust in academic history.

9. Regardless of what anybody says, since looking ahead is no longer reassuring during these times, people whose expectations from the future have decreased have turned to themselves and nostalgia. We have started to search for a community with a mutual memory in order to escape loneliness.

10. Societies and cultures in all corners of the world have started to endeavor to remember, judge and explain history to bind up wounds from their traumatic past.

So…. Those who are interested in reading the details of Blight's opinions may see the book titled “Zihinde ve Kültürde Bellek” (Memory in the Mind and Culture) translated by Yonca Aşçı Dalar and published by Türkiye İş Bankası Yayınları. However, I believe that even these 10 articles which we summarized are enough to explain why Mr. İlber Ortaylı, known previously only by experts in the profession, is so popular.…



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