Historical consciousness: From nationalist entanglements to the affective embodiment of a concept

Nichole E Grant, Pamela Rogers


Given the popularity of historical consciousness within history education (Anderson, 2017; Seixas, 2006, 2017), there is a need to pause for reflection to consider the stakes, tenets, and presuppositions in taking on, continuing, and teaching, a traditional historical consciousness in disciplinary history.  Drawing on Seixas’ (2006) definition of historical consciousness, that being the intersection between public memory, history education and citizenship, we argue these underlying principles maintain and sustain oppressive, exclusionary practices. Such an understanding of historical consciousness fails to account for the ways in which histories are embodied, living in/through bodies, and cannot be separated from daily realities.  Further, a dis-embodied historical consciousness does not allow for understanding histories as co-constitutive processes, which interweave and assemble in relational flows.  In turn, we seek to work through an embodied historical consciousness, arguing this is necessary for an intra-relational assemblage of the past within the present, moving away from “rival histories” and their disciplinary boundaries that are inextricably tied to the state (Barad, 2007; Elmersjo, Clark, & Vinterek, 2017).  This means not only being attentive to bodies in-and-as history, but making an overt space for working through affective elements, the trauma of being compared to the somatic norm (Puwar, 2004), and the national grand narratives that creates a limited and exclusionary version of “common memory” to critically theorize historical consciousness.


historical consciousness; onto-epistemology; embodiment; nation

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Copyright (c) 2019 Nichole E Grant, Pamela Rogers

Historical Encounters is a double blind peer-reviewed, open access, interdisciplinary journal dedicated to the empirical and theoretical study of historical consciousness, historical cultures, and history education.

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