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Vijay Prashad

In 2011 the editors of the Canada-based journal Left History ran a special issue on “Active History.“ Jim Clifford of York University pointed out that one aspect of the active history project “is for historians to work with and share authority with the community whose history they study.“ This is not quite the same as activist history, nor is it a project that simply suggests that history matters. The tenor is to see if academic historians could find ways to engage with social movements. I am greatly sympathetic to this project, and would like to reflect on its implications. But I am also aware that in some areas of social life, movements do not exist. What is the capacity of an historian to work “actively“ with the currents of our time, and what are its implications for institutional careers and intellectual trajectories?