How has “the profession” continually defined itself in a way that is inherently exclusive? It guarantees that those in power have the option to “share” their authority on their own terms – virtue signaling without critically engaging. Do communities of “laypeople” require the guidance of “professionals” to dialogue around their own legacies? After all, the past is a part of our everyday lives, integrated into our individual and collective identities. How do we parse truth from mythos? Are these colonizer constructs?
This point-counterpoint reprises the success of the “Insider/Outsider” working group discussion from NCPH 2018. This proposed session solicits feedback, suggestions, and concrete solutions to the myriad grievances and questions raised by the year-long collaboration between public historians of color across the country. Issues to be covered include institutional policy and leadership, advisory groups, the tokenization of POC labor and content, and the appropriation/credentialization of social justice education. At the conclusion of our 2018 collaboration, we found ourselves at a crossroads between assimilation and militancy. Our new organizing question – how can we strategically negotiate separatism and integration, grassroots ideology and institutionalization in order to forge common bonds and enable collective action? Can the master’s tools never truly dismantle the master’s house (as Audre Lorde once claimed), or can we subvert from within?
* Our moderating framework may draw on Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past and Saidiya Hartman’s “Venus on Two Acts,” and their application to public history work.
Learn more on the Public History Commons.