History Is a Contemporary Literature
Manifesto for the Social Sciences
Translated by Nathan J. Bracher
Ivan Jablonka’s History Is a Contemporary Literature offers highly innovative perspectives on the writing of history, the relationship between literature and the social sciences, and the way that both social-scientific inquiry and literary explorations contribute to our understanding of the world. Jablonka argues that the act and art of writing, far from being an afterthought in the social sciences, should play a vital role in the production of knowledge in all stages of the researcher’s work and embody or even constitute the understanding obtained. History (along with sociology and anthropology) can, he contends, achieve both greater rigor and wider audiences by creating a literary experience through a broad spectrum of narrative modes.
Challenging scholars to adopt investigative, testimonial, and other experimental writing techniques as a way of creating and sharing knowledge, Jablonka envisions a social science literature that will inspire readers to become actively engaged in understanding their own pasts and to relate their histories to the present day. Lamenting the specialization that has isolated the academy from the rest of society, History Is a Contemporary Literature aims to bring imagination and audacity into the practice of scholarship, drawing on the techniques of literature to strengthen the methods of the social sciences.
Ivan Jablonka is Professor of History at Université Paris 13 and a researcher at Collège de France. He is the author of A History of the Grandparents I Never Had, winner of the Prix du Sénat du livre d’histoire, Prix Guizot de l’Académie française, and Prix Augustin-Thierry des Rendez-vous de l’histoire de Blois; and of Laëtitia ou la fin des hommes (Laetitia or the end of men)], winner of the Le Monde's 2016 Prix littéraire, the 2016 Prix Médicis, and the 2016 Prix des prix.