Category Archives: History and Culture

Formerly known as Cultural Periods and Styles

Image Assignment: A Journey (303/415)

Richard and Saladin Jousting. Luttrell Psalter ca. 1340. British Library.

I began my project with a clear idea of which image I wanted to discuss: the cover illustration of Amin Maalouf’s The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. The first thing I learned about this image was what I read on the back of the book, where notes about cover art are usually placed. The note informed me that the image was of Saladin and Richard jousting from a 14th century text called the Luttrell Psalter

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West/Rest (303/415)

The discourse of “the West and the Rest” relies on the method of Othering. The construction of the myth of the West depends on its other, the Rest. If the Westerner is defined by attributes such as industriousness and fondness for liberty, for example, then the non-Westerner is necessarily lazy and slavish. 

Here is a quote from Cultural Theory: The Key Concepts:

“[T]he Other [is] a form of cultural projection of concepts. This projection of concepts constructs the identities of cultural subjects through a relationship of power in which the Other is the subjugated element. In claiming knowledge about [non-Westerners] what [the discourse of “the West and the Rest”] did was construct them as its own (Western) Other. Through describing purportedly [non-Western] characteristics (irrational, uncivilized, etc.) [“the West and the Rest”] provided a definition not of the real [non-Western] identity but of the Western identity in terms of the oppositions which structured its account. Hence, irrational Other presupposes rational Self. The construction of the Other in [West/Rest] discourse, then, is a matter of asserting self-identity, and the issue of the Western account of the [non-Western] Other is thereby rendered a question of power” (Edgar and Sedgwick 2002).

Primitive Accumulation

From Capital, volume 1 (1867)

 [P]rimitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race. Its origin is supposed to be explained when it is told as an anecdote of the past. In times long gone by there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living. The legend of theological original sin tells us certainly how man came to be condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow; but the history of economic original sin reveals to us that there are people to whom this is by no means essential. Never mind! Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us in the defence of property…. In actual history it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, play the great part…. [T]he methods of primitive accumulation are anything but idyllic.

Notes on Narrative

I’m still learning how to teach online. The last lecture I don’t consider particularly effective and I think that from now on I’m going to post multiple, very short lectures instead of trying to adhere to a longer format which probably only works face to face in real time.

Ideally you’ll be learning the human geography of the Crusades, the dates of events, the names of the major figures, big picture stuff, etc. in addition to thinking about historiography as a form of narrative-making that shapes contemporary understanding of the present and the past.

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