Monday, February 1, 2010
Since his death last week, NPR commentators have referred to Howard Zinn as a "revisionist historian" twice. And this strikes me as strange and inaccurate. It only makes sense to call someone like Zinn a revisionist if you believe that there is such a thing as history-with-a-capital-H. Like History from the God's-eye-view, or The Way Things Really Were. Period. But nobody believes that anymore, do they? I mean, don't we all pretty much accept the fact that History is just history told from the dominant, mainstream perspective, and that all the histories that are told from the marginalized view are just as valid; they're just coming from a different perspective? And in this sense, it's not only nonsensical to call the histories from marginalized perspectives "revisionist," but it positions the mainstream view as the right one - the best one - and all the rest as somewhat suspect, if not flat-out illegitimate. So let's cut it out already with the "revisionist" talk.