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Category: History of Knowledge

Children Watching

“The Children Were Watching,” dir. Robert Drew and Richard Leacock, USA 1961, 25 min. — This documentary doesn’t feel as old to me as I wish it did. In part that’s because I watched it in Trump’s America during an especially difficult year, but something deeper is at play. The film’s ongoing relevance represents an ambiguous answer to its directors’ main question: What were the children of a New Orleans neighborhood learning as they watched their parents during the conflicts surrounding school integration in November 1960?

“Naomi [who denounces ‘climate alarmism’] said her political activism was sparked a few years ago when she began asking questions in school about Germany’s liberal immigration policies. She said the backlash from teachers and other students hardened her skepticism about mainstream German thinking.”

— Desmond Butler and Juliet Eilperin, “The Anti-Greta: A Conservative Think Tank Takes on the Global Phenomenon.”


Yes, our cognition is bound up in our social existence, as Ludwik Fleck noted in 1935.

My latest editorial project: Migrant Knowledge, a blog with Andrea Westermann and Swen Steinberg for the German Historical Institute Washington.

Information and Meaning

False information gains strength from its roots in stories that make sense to a lot of people; mow down the latest false facts and more will soon sprout until we address those stories themselves—and the reasons people believe them.

– Paul, J. Croce, “What We Can Learn from Fake News,” History News Network, July 23, 2017, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166400.

Information, Sociability, Reality Check

I’ve been off RSS readers for a while, in part because of Google’s exit from the game, but also because of information overload. Thinking about using it again and revisiting some old stomping grounds in the blogosphere, I found Dan Cohen’s relevant comments on Ann Blair’s Too Much to Know. Seems I am in good company with my occasional ignoring of information—ignoring that I prefer to think won’t lead to, might even prevent, ignorance. I treat Twitter rather cavalierly too, as if it were a place to hang out, learn… Read more Information, Sociability, Reality Check

Cognition

“Cognition is the most socially-conditioned activity of man, and knowledge is the paramount social creation [Gebilde].”

—Ludwik Fleck, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, translated by Fred Bradley and Thaddeus J. Trenn (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), Kindle ed., chap. 2, sec. 4.

Military History and Business History

My research deals with war and society, while my editorial work addresses mainly consumption history. One might think these are two different worlds, but I’m coming to doubt the validity of such assumptions. Indeed, the subfields of military and business history have a lot of similarities. Most obviously, they are both interested in organizations, knowledge, experts, and elites—among other things. They are also both informed by a tension between the historian’s ethos to understand the past for its own sake and the practitioner’s desire to learn lessons from that past… Read more Military History and Business History