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  • Historiography as Reenactment:Metaphors and Literalizations of TV Documentaries
  • Katie King

Reenactments and Pastpresents; Examples of What?

My forthcoming book, Flexible Knowledges: Histories under Globalization, is about reenactments, a term I use inclusively to examine the currently experimental historiographies of African transnational radio oralities, global action-adventure television, living-history sites, heritage Web sites, "time traveling" documentary television, and museum installations in order to think about changes in the materialities that "write" histories of technologies under globalization. Along with Sharon Traweek, an anthropologist of particle physics communities in the United States and Japan, I have become "interested in how these massive shifts in political economy affect the kinds of questions intellectuals begin to find interesting . . ., the kinds of resources assessed to investigate their questions, the kinds of curricular and pedagogical changes generated, and the new modes of investigation. That is, what else is going on when there is a change in what counts as a good question, an interesting mode of inquiry, way of teaching and learning, and the infrastructure needed for pursuing these emerging forms of knowledge making."1 In Flexible Knowledges I examine both authoritative and alternate sites for what I call "writing technologies," for productions of knowledge and the crossing and moving of boundaries between them. I do this by looking at what I call "bits of pastpresents" in these experimental historiographies. Pastpresents (one word), similar to feminist technoscience historian and theorist Donna Haraway's naturecultures (also one word), are implosions across discursive and other realms.2 I think of pastpresents as quite palpable evidences that the past and the present cannot be purified each from the other: they confront me in each experimental historiography with interruptions, obstacles, new/old forms of organization, bridges, shifts in direction, and spinning dynamics. Neither nature [End Page 459] and culture or past and present are actually easy to separate, and properly we may repeatedly question such separations. I do this so that we can think about how technologies and their histories, in Haraway's words, "might have been otherwise, and might yet be."3 Naming pastpresents is a critique of the critique of presentism and also shares a feminist epistemology in which, along with Haraway and science anthropologist Bruno Latour, we "break the Enlightenment Contract" that requires us to keep separate our purifications and our hybridities as the condition for practicing both.4

As Haraway reminds us, globalization is "that travelogue of distributed, heterogeneous, linked, sociotechnical circulations that craft the world as a net called the global."5 Flexible work processes were lauded in the 1990s but also were understood as the hallmark of the superexploitations of which globalized capital is capable. Flexible knowledges are sometimes the very commercialized versions of these processes and products across communities of practice.6 Those of us who are now immersed, perhaps drowning, in flexible knowledges are paradoxically both willing and required to become beginners, over and over, to give up mastery and to open up to risk, connection, and sometimes enthusiasm. I have come to prefer this inevitably already dated term "flexible knowledges" to "interdisciplinarity" in the timescale realized under academic capitalism's colonization of more and more universities as sites of knowledge production, and as universities become less and less the most valued centers making knowledge.7

Globalization processes are also accompanied by their companions, glocalizations. Glocalization assumes first that globalization processes are responsible for the power and mobility of media, money, politics, sexualities, and knowledge practices. But it also, and very importantly, demonstrates that these meanings and powers can be glocalized, that is, altered, filled in, indigenized, and reunderstood within local agencies, people, art forms, and other practices of everyday life.8 Use itself matters in glocalization, even though such use takes place within and through shifting and sometimes unanticipated limits and strangely distributed agencies. I find the term glocalization valuable because it does not assume that it is obvious when such localized, or indeed globalized, practices and uses are liberatory and when they are not. I am skeptical of those who are quick to draw clear lines between analyses that are celebratory and those that are critical, because I value my own and others' surprise and confusion at...


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pp. 459-475
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