This essay calls for historians to move beyond chronological time in the writing and understanding of history. It first shows that chronology and modern history are historical, not natural, and then offers some simple correctives, such as recognizing different timescales and writing histories using the dating system of that place or object. It then suggests that we invert the relation between stasis and mobility so that we do not unwittingly use anachronistic categories and considers how historians, by forgoing chronology, can be more precise and complex about questions of change. Finally, it invokes provocations from Norbert Elias and Michel Serres that call for new frameworks for thinking about history and pasts.
History without Chronology
Stefan Tanaka is a member of the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. His books Japan’s Orient: Rendering Pasts into History (1993) and New Times in Modern Japan (2004) focus on the interaction between pasts, time, and history in modern Japan.
Stefan Tanaka; History without Chronology. Public Culture 1 January 2016; 28 (1 (78)): 161–186. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-3325064
Download citation file: