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A History from Within: When Historians Write About Their Own Kin

Stéphane Gerson, New York University

October 21, 2020 · 4:30 pm EDT · via Zoom

Department of French and Italian

Over the past decade, a growing number of historians have made their relatives their object of study, notably in France. Within a discipline that tends to privilege distance, this represents a significant shift in terms of topic, epistemological stance, and rhetoric.

Stéphane Gerson will historicize and analyze a mode of writing — the personal family history —that draws readers close to the complexities and contradictions of the social world, without any hope for full elucidation but without resignation either. It does so through its scale and internal perspective (a history from within); an embodied, self-reflexive stance that blends reason and history with emotions and memory; an open-ended relationship to what we can and cannot know; and experimental modes of writing. The genre also raises unresolved questions critical to family histories, their ethics, and the ethnography of family archives.

Open to members of the Princeton University community

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