Historiography, Regimes of Historicity and Chronopherence

There is a meta-history to the writing of history. There is a plurality of methods, perspectives and ethico-political frameworks of writing history. These are cognitive writing practices that are used by historians to narrate history. There are positivist , marxist, nationalist, liberal etc historiographies that animate the works of writing history. They are epistemological sets of practices, ideological as well stylistic or aesthetic preferences. We have to critically examine these practices of writing history otherwise we may not be able to identify our blind spots, misrepresentations as well as omissions in the works of history. We need this scrutiny chiefly because history is a Magistra Vitae. If we do not learn from the past, we are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past. Hence, we are duty bound to explore the horizons of expectations and narrative tropes that inform the writing of history. They are interlinked to what is greeted as regimes of historicity.

History records our experience of space and time. Michelle Foucault indicates that all history is a story of victors. Besides history is His story and is mainly the history of the present. Our experience of space is part of our experience of time. Both time and space are intertwined in our experience. The work of Reinhart Coselleck’s constellation of the experience of space and the horizon of expectation does open us to the complexities of our experience of space. He says that historians empathize with the people and construct their experience of space with their past as it lives in them The horizon of expectation enables us to view subjects of history as those who hope, fear and have expectations. Francois Hartog expanded these ideas and developed the notion: of regimes of historicity. A regime of historicity is a way humans look at themselves as beings in time at a particular time. It defines the form of experience of time. Hartog teaches that the way humans see themselves as beings in time shifts over time.

Hartog identifies three regimes of historicity: Premodern, Modern, and Contemporary. The premodern regime of historicity looks at the past as Magistra Vitae. Hence see the present as a space to enact a past. The Modern regime of historicity came on the scene after the French Revolution and sees the present as a space to build a new future removed from the past. The contemporary regime of historicity arrived after the fall of the Berlin wall and abandons the promise of the future and embraces what he calls presentism where the present is everything that we experience through multitasking and horizontalization of time. There are limits to this tripartite inventory. Besides, it is trapped in progressive linearity. Yet it might provide us with a way to look at how and which regimes of historicity operate during different epochs and how we as well as historians are influenced by them.

Historiography relates to the reigning regimes of historicity. The regime of historicity being a temporal structure that underlies the narrativization of the past generates modes of emplotment that assists ideological messaging. This means all forms of historiographies also have regimes of historicity undergirding them. This intersection between forms of historiographies and regimes of historicity becomes an order of things and a regime of truth that makes us think that history that is narrated is innocent, truthfully objective and even normative. Hence, we have challenges to accept that nothing is really out of time. There is a Constitutive chronoference to our experience of life. The Marxist historiography or nationalist historiography is oriented towards a promised future. Liberal historiographies are also postdated cheques. The positivist right-wing historiographies are oriented towards the past and are geared to let the past live in the present and future.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao