New ways of doing history (pt.2)

Whilst I think Simon Schama’s History of Britain DVD series excellent and enjoyable, it upholds the long, noble tradition of history primarily being about homo sapiens. In my view, all the visuals, and places visited by the series’ production team reinforce the notion that the ‘Britain’ in the title is merely backdrop and scene-setting to the real drama, the human one. The perspective that homo sapiens is of a different order to the rest of the natural world (an order that’s self-contained, separate and uniquely capable and innovative) could be more self-fulfilling prophecy than definitive truth. It’s a perspective that’s a tad simplistic and fails to grapple with the paradox of us being both apart from and a part of the wider world – IMHO. So how can this paradox be better conveyed through a museum-cum-exhibition? I wonder…

Food for thought is this video about our close, more-than-human relative, the bonobo monkey. Savage-Rumbaugh moves me more than the strained, reverential tones of Sir Richard Attenborough, probably because she’s coming from a place of lived knowledge, where she interacts with and gets to know her subject as a subject. I’ve always found Attenborough difficult to listen to, probably because he has tended to operate using describing knowledge, relating information about his objects of interest as objects. From my perspective, it’s sadly little surprise that the bonobo is close to extinction. If they have to be in a zoo, let’s not shield the public’s gaze from bonobos, just because of their very-human sexual behaviour. Or would this be voyeuristic? If so, what then is a zoo?


One Response to “New ways of doing history (pt.2)”

  1. The Isles Project - what and why - the how’s another question « Sumptuous World Says:

    […] history writing I wrote about before at Sumptuous World – New ways of doing history parts I & II. I love it because I believe those of us in the developed world need more than ever a sensibility […]

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