History is what the Present is made of

Middletown, Connecticut, 2011

I joined the Social Text Editorial Collective this Spring, and one of the first visible results is this interview with Matthew Frye Jacobson. Tavia Nyong’o and I interviewed Matthew about his interdisciplinary Historian’s Eye project.

Jacobson: And then I’ve been traveling around–I’ve been to something like 28 or 30 different states at this point– shooting pictures that I think capture something important about what’s going on. So now it’s a project not just about Obama, but it’s about the backlash against Obama, it’s about the Tea Party, it’s about the economic collapse, it’s about the oil spill, the wars, the anti-Muslim agitation. It still feels like a unique moment to me, historically speaking. It feels like a moment in which the country is about to deliver–at any second we could deliver up our very best or our very worst. It feels like that kind of tense moment of hope and danger. The archive is meant to build materials that capture that aspect of this moment. But then it’s also meant to be a pedagogical tool, to help teachers help their students to think historically about the present, really. To think about history as what the present is made of. To think about the present as having a deep history of its own, but also being history in the making.

The full interview is online at Social Text.