The ways in which race and assumptions of racial superiority are interwoven into how we as 21st century people think about this encounter is a topic of great interest, but as interesting is the ways in which Hegel's account dialectical account of history shape how we think about the past. Extrapolating (perhaps inaccurately) from what we talked about in class, it seems that the linear process of history is unwritten by a notion of conflict; encounters between different ideas, people, and even races initially result in a negation, and then eventually in a sort of synthesis. If as we have seen the concept of race is an invention, than my question is to what extent is the concept of racial conflict also an invention? Is Hegel's dialectical understanding history an accurate representation of the process of history? To what extent does assuming that human interactions are inherently conflictive change how we act? Does it create conflict where there isn't any?
Friday, January 28, 2011
If reading Hegel's excerpt on race is an understandably jarring experience, representing a moment in which a historical way of thinking is largely opaque to the modern reader, then much of its shock value derives from the degree to which parts of Hegel's civilizational narrative of Western History are still present in common historical interpretations. The example which is most striking to me is his brief mention of Indigenous American peoples as "a vanishing, feeble race," and rather it is people of the European race who will create civilization on this new continent. Although almost all modern historical interpretations of what is termed the "Conquest" shy away from the overt racism of Hegel's work, and many works from the second half of the 20th century, largely eschew acceptance of European civilizational myth, I would argue that the idea that the indigenous people vanished is deeply, and falsely, imbedded in the shared historical consciousness. Our own class discussion in which the notion of Native American life was perceived by some to be vanished and/or extinct indicates that Hegel and other's ideas about the encounter between European and Indigenous Americans is still active and alive in how we think about the past.