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History and Fact v. Fiction

FatCatRex's picture

I'm in a class on History and Theory of Anthropology, and this week we read this incredible book by Michel-Rolph Trouillot called "Silencing the Past," discussing the production of history and the role that power plays in the past AND present. While this may not sound like its super related, I just had this ah-ha moment in class when we were discussing the text in more depth... allow me to explain...

To Trouillot, history is all about the construction and ordering of facts, which are in his mind, certainly a real and true thing (I know , sorry to use so many problematic terms) but INFINITE. A fact is not just a confined moment, or a truth in one sliver in time, but just like history is constructed through our understanding of the past, so too are facts. Trouillot would say that our process of fact-making (or selecting) is always situated in the present, and that we create a narrative or trajectory for that fact to fit into. Furthermore, by making facts relevant we inevitably silence, or deem irrelevant, another set of concurrent happenings.

This is all to say that I think we should perhaps think more about the temporality of facts. Trouillot says that facts are things that don't have a beginning or an end, but are created to have the illusion of these boundaries. The past has no content if not for the present. "Pastness" creates present, and vice versa. Does that mean that fiction "creates" fact..? or vice versa?

Trouillot  even goes on to say that an original truth (a 'dictionary definiton' as my professor would say) is nonexistent. We are always filtering our truths and our facts through our present reality. But because facts are infinite doesn't make them untrue, its just that we are always remaking facts, and that we are selves are players as well as narrators in our own narratives.

?!?! ...this all just blew my mind a little so I thought I'd share. Let me know what you all think!

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