"History Culture" and the Continuing Crisis of History


  • Kalle Pihlainen Oulun yliopisto


The article takes aim at a core difficulty with many current conceptualizations of “historical”
culture – that of striking a balance between the common attribution of special privilege to the
discipline of history and professional historians and a potential, emerging democratization of
talk about the past. Seeking some working middle ground is seen as particularly timely given
the contemporary media culture environment where sentiment appears to increasingly favour
choosing one’s positioning relatively freely from facts and expertise. To this end, views presented
under the umbrella term of historical culture, which largely appear to reserve a curatorial role
for the various history professionals, are complemented by more explicitly emancipatory
orientations from debates on perceived shifts in public focus to heritage and memory as well
as from key postmodern-inspired approaches to thinking about the past. Several terminological
recommendations are argued for, chief among them a reconceptualization of the overall field
in terms of history culture, whereby professional history and popular and public “parahistory”
practices might more readily be viewed as on equal footing.