Theory in history, or historical theory, is a field that has been of increasing interest to scholars in the academic world beyond Europe and North America (often referred to as "the West"). There is, of course, a circularity to this development, in that many scholars in the figurative "non-West" who have come to develop an interest in historical theory themselves inhabit intellectual and academic cultures that are informed by and are at times descended from intellectual/academic cultures in "the West." But these scholars are also formed by other and distinctive political, intellectual, literary, and aesthetic cultures, which have retained elements that are causally independent of or pointedly resistant to "Western" influence. This tension is perhaps most visible in culturally divergent understandings or strategies of narrativity and temporality that determine what “counts” as history.
In any case, interest in historical theory has everywhere been a culturally hybrid intellectual pursuit--not simply for scholars whose home port, or portal, is in the "non-West." Indeed, for many scholars, the hybridity itself calls into question the categories "West" and "non-West"; others have suggested the divide should really be between “North” and “South.” Perhaps seeking to retain some degree of cultural autonomy in the face of an all-consuming hybridity, some have sought recourse in the geopolitical notion of the "global south"; others, looking to the future, are less worried on this score and prefer the simpler term "global." Beyond this, regions such as Australia and New Zealand present complications of their own; these too need to be addressed.
To prompt reflection on these matters, the 2015 theme issue of History and Theory will focus on the interest in historical theory beyond Europe and North America as well as on the historiographical traditions that inspire this interest. In particular, we are interested in the ways that this interest engages both exogenous and indigenous strains of historical theory and ways of understanding, thinking about, and representing the past. But we encourage as well reflections on the problematic or productive tensions that the local appropriation of theory might foster. Has historical theory over the last hundred years been so distinctively Western as to provide--now or in the past--special challenges to its development beyond the West? Does historical theory as we know it require a fresh critique before it can be properly integrated into global historiographies? Does the idea of a global academic space enable us to see the homogeneities and heterogeneities of historical theories in the West and the non-West and/or the hybrid nature of historical theory in general? Or is it that the local issues at play are not so much theoretical as historiographical, making this a source of difference and divergence?
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