Universal history as traditionally understood emerged out of the semi-secularization of Biblical history that followed Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s attempt to think the whole of religion, philosophy, and history as a cosmological system of modernity. That was the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, universal history became an attempt to include all so-called civilizations within an academic canon. By unearthing the central significance of the Haitian Revolution for Hegel’s idea of freedom, the author argues for an inversion of historical understanding: the alleged margins of history are central, the alleged divisions between histories are mythical, and the goal of a universal history of humanity is to be achieved by dismantling the topology in which the past has been framed and passed down to us. The goal is to disrupt the intellectual order by exposing the blind spots that hinder conceptual, hence political, imagination—a writing of universal history upside down. A universal history worthy of the name will go far beyond the notion of correcting the Eurocentricity of history writing; it will need to be based on a deprivatized, denationalized structure of collective memory, effecting nothing short of a different world order. If the present is imagined not as the culmination of the past but rather as its rescue, then a radical pedagogy practices this gesture in its mode of historical recuperation. Theoretical pragmatics as a method of universal history, the transitory visibility of truth, respects the past’s lack of closure and welcomes the past’s intrusion in the present. It views history as a gift, given to all of us, without restrictions.
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Research Article| May 01 2020
Universal History Upside Down: Reflections on Hegel and Haiti
Nka (2020) 2020 (46): 28–39.
Susan Buck-Morss; Universal History Upside Down: Reflections on Hegel and Haiti. Nka 1 May 2020; 2020 (46): 28–39. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-8308150
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