Accueil > Narratives, Representations and Uses of the Past

AHIS 25A11 - Narratives and representations of the past

Type d'enseignement : Lecture and tutorials

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 48

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

Historians are full participants in the process of representing, writing and appropriating the past. Their approach is based on a quest for truth and objectivity, and on precise procedures as well as rules on providing evidence. This endeavor coexists with the multiple social and political interpretations of the past, which have proliferated over the last forty years (referred to as the so-called “memory boom”). Due to memorial claims, demands for reparations, ideological constructions and the “invention of tradition”, numerous and contradictory discourses have flourished and taken on various forms (literature, cinema, visual arts, commemorations, collections, etc.). As a shared object, the past is at the heart of political and social conflicts, notably through the extension of “competitive victimhood(s)”. The very goal of this course is thus to understand the background, logic and forms of these various uses of the past, and to define the specificity of historical knowledge, its requirements and objectives, as well as its possible role in the current contexts of political nationalism, ideological negationism, religious fundamentalism and massive assaults against democracy.


DUCLERT, Vincent (Professeur agrégé", Docteur en histoire, Inspecteur général de l'Education nationale// PhD in History, Associate Professor, Sciences Po)

Pedagogical format

Each week, in addition to the two-hour lecture, the students will attend a two-hour seminar (for a total of 48 hours over the semester). These seminars will have two objectives: - Reexamining some of the themes developed in the lecture through the close study and discussion of various documents (texts, art works, photographs, videos, etc.); - Helping the students throughout the semester in the preparation of a group project (3 to 5 students) devoted to a specific case of storytelling of the past that will eventually be presented in a variety of ways (notebooks, videos or interviews posted on a dedicated blog). For each student, the grading will consist of at least three elements.

Required reading

  • Luca Andrighetto, “The victim wars: how competitive victimhood stymies reconciliation between conflicting groups”, The Inquisitive Mind, issue 15, 2012.
  • Jack Goody, The Theft of History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006 (reed. Canto Classics, 2012).
  • François Hartog et Jacques Revel (dir.), Les Usages politiques du passé, Paris, « Enquêtes », Éditions de l'EHESS, 2001.
  • Eric Hobsbawm, Terence Ranger (dir.), The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Ivan Jablonka, L'Histoire est une littérature contemporaine. Manifeste pour les sciences sociales, Paris, « La Librairie du XXIe siècle », Paris, Le Seuil, 2014.

Additional required reading

  • Philippe Joutard, Histoire et mémoire, conflits et alliances, Paris, La Découverte, 2013.
  • Margaret MacMillan, The Uses and Abuses of History, Londres, Profile Books, 2009.
  • John Torpey (ed.), Politics and the Past. On Repairing Historical Injustices, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield, 2003

Senior lecturers

  • MILLER-TREMBLAY, Jean-Philippe (Doctorant)
  • MITYUROVA, Ekaterina (ATER)