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Regimes of Historicity

Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time

FRANÇOIS HARTOG
TRANSLATED BY SASKIA BROWN
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/hart16376
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    Regimes of Historicity
    Book Description:

    François Hartog explores crucial moments of change in society's "regimes of historicity," or its ways of relating to the past, present, and future. Inspired by Hannah Arendt, Reinhart Koselleck, and Paul Ricoeur, Hartog analyzes a broad range of texts, positioningThe Odysseyas a work on the threshold of historical consciousness and contrasting it with an investigation of the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins's concept of "heroic history." He tracks changing perspectives on time in Chateaubriand'sHistorical EssayandTravels in Americaand sets them alongside other writings from the French Revolution. He revisits the insights of the French Annales School and situates Pierre Nora'sRealms of Memorywithin a history of heritage and today's presentism, from which he addresses Jonas's notion of our responsibility for the future.

    Our presentist present is by no means uniform or clear-cut, and it is experienced very differently depending on the position we occupy in society. We are caught up in global movement and accelerated flows, or else condemned to the life of casual workers, living from hand to mouth in a stagnant present, with no recognized past, and no real future either (since the temporality of plans and projects is inaccessible). The present is therefore experienced as emancipation or enclosure, and the perspective of the future is no longer reassuring, since it is perceived not as a promise, but as a threat. Hartog's resonant readings show us how the motor of history(-writing) has stalled and help us understand the contradictory qualities of our contemporary presentist relation to time.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53876-3
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. PRESENTISM: STOPGAP OR NEW STATE?
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    At the time this book was first published, in 2003, it already talked of a crisis of time, but obviously not of the crisis that has engulfed us since 2008—and I would not go so far as to claim for myself the gift of prophecy (not even with hindsight). However, it is not hard to see that links exist between the crisis, initially financial, which radiated out from the United States, and a world so enslaved to the present that no other viewpoint is considered admissible. What words have we been hearing since 2008? Essentially “crisis,” “recession,” “depression,” but...

  4. INTRODUCTION: ORDERS OF TIME AND REGIMES OF HISTORICITY
    (pp. 1-20)

    No one doubts that an order of time exists—or rather, that orders of time exist which vary with time and place. These orders are, in any event, so imperious and apparently so self-evident that we bow to them without even realizing it, without meaning to or wanting to, and whether we are aware of it or not. All resistance is in vain. For a society’s relations to time hardly seem open to discussion or negotiation. The term “order” implies at once succession and command: the times (in the plural)dictateordefy, timeavengeswrongs, itrestoresorder following...

  5. ORDERS OF TIME 1

    • 1 MAKING HISTORY: SAHLINS’S ISLANDS
      (pp. 23-40)

      In a lecture significantly entitled “Other Times, Other Customs: The Anthropology of History,” Marshall Sahlins evoked Jean-Paul Sartre’s question of whether we are yet able “to constitute a structural, historical anthropology.” Sahlins’s response was unequivocal: “Yes, I have tried to suggest here,le jour est arrivé” (in French in Sahlins). In other words, the day had dawned when one could “explode the concept of history through the anthropological experience of culture.”¹ Taking my cue from this, I will start with this anthropological experience of culture, guided by Sahlins, whose lecture sought to bring that “day” into being, or at least...

    • 2 FROM ODYSSEUS’S TEARS TO AUGUSTINE’S MEDITATIONS
      (pp. 41-64)

      Anyone transported directly from the Pacific to the Aegean, from the world of royal kingship to the “world of Odysseus,” moving simultaneously through space and back in time, would have no difficulty recognizing in the Homeric hero certain characteristics of the heroic regime of history. But it would be a different type of heroic regime, one incarnated by Achilles and Odysseus, as Vico describes them. Anyway, I do not intend to compare Thakombau or Hone Heke with Agamemnon or Nestor, and list similarities and differences, but rather focus on one figure in particular, Odysseus. He who, to quote the Russian...

    • 3 CHATEAUBRIAND, BETWEEN OLD AND NEW REGIMES OF HISTORICITY
      (pp. 65-96)

      Unlike Odysseus, Chateaubriandhadread Augustine. Immersed as he was in a Christian experience of time, his one and only temporal reference was that of the Catholic monarchy. However, since he was born in 1768, he grew up in a period of profound crisis and conflictual relations to time. That is why he will be our guide here, he whose world was utterly shattered by the French Revolution. Yet many other names could rightfully figure between Augustine and Chateaubriand, between Alaric’s sack of Rome and the storming of the Bastille, not least Petrarch, Bacon, Montaigne, Perrault, and Rousseau; and several...

  6. ORDERS OF TIME 2

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 97-100)

      The three meditations on ruins and the three journeys to America, described in the previous chapters, and which spanned more than half a century, gave form to three experiences of time. All three reflected a radical reappraisal of the order of time. Volney, Chateaubriand, and Tocqueville, each in his own way, expressed the realization that the old regime of historicity, which had so long been sustained by the model ofhistoria magistra, could no longer work. In order for contemporary events to be intelligible, the categories of the past and the future had to be articulated differently, failing which “the...

    • 4 MEMORY, HISTORY, AND THE PRESENT
      (pp. 101-148)

      “France must compose its Annals afresh, to make them conform to the progress of reason.” This maxim from Chateaubriand, which we referred to in the last chapter, comes from the preface to hisHistorical Studies, in which he was adopting the pose of the historian overtaken by history: “I was writing ancient history, while modern history was knocking at my door.”¹ History, speeding ahead posthaste, was once again leaving him behind. As he observed in hisMemoirs, ideally one would “write history in a calèche.” Lorenz von Stein, a German theorist of history, noted similarly in 1843 that “it is...

    • 5 HERITAGE AND THE PRESENT
      (pp. 149-192)

      Let us now turn from memory to its alter ego, heritage, while asking the same question as before: how are we to understand, in terms of time and the order of time, the proliferation and universalization of heritage that we have witnessed over the last quarter of a century? More precisely, what regime of historicity is implied by the phenomenon that some have described as the “meteoric rise of the heritage industry” in the 1990s? Did this taste for the past, for everything old, emerge suddenly as a kind of nostalgia for an older regime of historicity that had in...

    • OUR DOUBLY INDEBTED PRESENT: THE REIGN OF PRESENTISM
      (pp. 193-204)

      Our relations to time may be dissected but not decreed. For how could we ever pronounce upon our own present? Perched on what stilts or standing on the shoulders of what giants? We have seen that the present’s immediate self-historicization is a defining trend of our time. And we credit ourselves with the power to extend and intensify this trend? To push presentism to its very limits?

      If there was a time when Chateaubriand’s stance could be ours, it is certainly long gone. I shall mention it one last time, as a way of bidding farewell to the self-styled swimmer...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 205-246)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 247-260)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-262)