The past always haunts the present, but most political science fails to acknowledge, let alone describe, the influence of history’s ghosts. Too much policy analysis focuses only on what we can see and measure, ignoring the lingering impact of loss and repression.

It’s often the autocrats, dissidents, educators, and artists who best understand the power of ghosts. These are the individuals who write and re-write history, who travel through time, altering the narratives of nations and societies. The ghosts they invoke can reinforce or subvert official histories, empower or oppress.

Many of the pieces in our cover package grapple with attempts by various governments to mobilize history to serve their own authority. Indian scholar Ananya Vajpeyi examines how the nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is using the ancient language of Sanskrit to advance a Hindu supremacist agenda. Historian Eri Hotta describes how, throughout Japan’s history, leaders have used...

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