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Reflections on History Education

Easy and Difficult Histories

Ed Jonker

History education inevitably is a thing of the present. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it has always answered to problems that were urgent at the time of discussion. This has mostly taken the form of explaining and thus smoothing over painful ruptures in the past. Although nowadays we generally acknowledge this contemporary character of history education, the professional ideal of doing proper, authentic history remains—a desire that is understandable, but compatible neither with epistemological standards nor with public expectations. While teaching instrumental history is not an option, history education cannot live on criticism and deconstruction alone, we need a reflexive presentism that self-consciously confronts the present day—“difficult“ rather than “easy“ histories.

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Learning to Remember Slavery

School Field Trips and the Representation of Difficult Histories in English Museums

Nikki Spalding

Drawing on the fields of education, memory, and cultural studies, this article argues that as important cultural memory products, government-sponsored museum education initiatives require the same attention that history textbooks receive. It investigates the performance of recent shifts in historical consciousness in the context of museum field trip sessions developed in England in tandem with the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. Analysis of fieldwork data is presented in order to illustrate some of the complexities inherent in the way difficult histories are represented and taught to young people in the twenty-first century, particularly in relation to citizenship education.

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The "Moving" Image

Empathy and Projection in the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

Silke Arnold-de Simine

The moving image has become ubiquitous in museums that deal with traumatic, violent, and difficult histories and could be described as "memorial museums." This article investigates exhibition practices in the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, in which large-scale video installations provide evocative recreations of traumatic experiences that are designed to unsettle and disturb visitors, providing them with a visceral and vicarious experience that calls for witnessing and "empathic unsettlement." It also queries the assumption that the capacity for empathy forms the basis for responsible moral agency, and whether museums aiming to encourage social responsibility should rely on such technologies.

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Visual Narratives of Jewish Identity

The Creative Work of Third-Generation Comic Artist Miriam Libicki

Betsy Inlow

, difficult histories. Despite an initial reluctance, the pressure of regret or ‘an opportunity that could be lost’ is an ultimate driving force behind many artists engaging with Holocaust-related themes in comics. As well as indicating a number of common

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Repatriation and Ritual, Repatriation as Ritual

Laura Peers, Lotten Gustafsson Reinius, and Jennifer Shannon

guilt through bureaucratic means. For Indigenous claimants, repatriation includes spiritual cleansing and prayer, fulfilling kinship obligations to ancestors, laying spirits to rest, and acknowledging difficult histories as part of the process of

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The Magic of Bureaucracy

Repatriation as Ceremony

Laura Peers

collection of the remains being handed over, and the effects that such collecting had on their community: these are already known to most participants, but are spoken again in this context as public declarations, a formal witnessing of difficult histories

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Exhibition Reviews

Simon Hilton-Smith, M. Elizabeth Weiser, Sarah Russ, Kristin Hussey, Penny Grist, Natalie Carfora, Nalani Wilson-Hokowhitu, Fei Chen, Yi Zheng, and Xiaorui Guan

evident throughout. An initial sign tells visitors upfront that Greenwood is not “shying away from our darkest moments,” but that they “understand the discomfort that may come from confronting this difficult history” and “value the emotional wellbeing of

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Writing Childhoods, Righting Memory

Intergenerational Remembrance in Post-communist Romania

Codruta Alina Pohrib

de fluture” (An Engraving on Butterfly Wings), 41 which engages with the repressed history of homosexuality. However, the pupil places this difficult history of repression only during the communist regime, disregarding the fact that homosexuality was

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Book Reviews

Greagh Smith, Conal McCarthy, Bronwyn Labrum, Ken Arnold, Dominique Poulot, Jill Haley, Jun Wei, and Safua Akeli Amaama

, reckon with difficult histories through consultation with Native American communities, and work with contemporary artists. University museums have made a comeback, returning to teaching with objects and collections once regarded as old-fashioned, and

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A Woman of Valor Goes to Court

Tort Law as an Instrument of Social Change under Multiculturalism

Ella Glass and Yifat Bitton

Mizrahi constituencies as “a consequence of the past added on to the long and difficult history of the Jewish people” and that, according to them, “only time, rather than judicial decisions, can alter it to fit the new reality we live in, and that which we