Home Hybridizing historiography: contributions from (post)modernity to history and complexity


CCS’16 satellite session “Complexity for History and History for Complexity”

Beurs Van Berlage, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. September 21, 2016


A key criticism of contemporary applications of complexity theory to history is that, in utilizing tools and methods that developed to understand complex systems in history, we re-focus the narrative of human history on empires, civilisations, big states, and cities. Twentieth century historiography, as it incorporated new methodologies and theoretical approaches from postcolonial theory, feminism, queer theory, and subaltern discourses, shifted from a kings-and-empires focus – away from so-called ‘Whig’ history. Complexity theoretical approaches have shifted the locus of research back, and in doing so, prioritised hegemonic discourses and re-marginalised marginalised histories. What can we learn from the methods of postmodernism that could counter this effect? Is drawing together histoire totale, standpoint theory, and tools for modelling complex systems possible? Whose history would that hybrid approach foreground? Using the contemporary and historic discourse surrounding actor Emma Watson’s #HeForShe campaign, this paper will model a hybrid approach to understanding the past, combining methods from histoire totale, standpoint theory, and complex systems.


Speaker Bio


Kate Hannah, MA (Hons)

Executive Manager, Te Pūnaha Matatini – a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems and Networks
University of Auckland, Department of Physics, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
e-mail: k.hannah@auckland.ac.nz

Kate Hannah is a cultural historian, with a Master of Arts (2004) in 19th Century American Culture, from the University of Waikato. Her thesis, ‘Signifyin’ Slavery: the Literary Contexts of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, concentrated on developing a theoretically-informed understanding of the tropes of racism presented in aspects of antebellum culture. Her principal research area is the historiography of the history of science, which has led to a focus on problematizing the cultures of science, gender in science history, and complexity and science. She worked in a variety of research roles within New Zealand universities 2004-2014, as well as running her own historical consultancy, with clients including telecommunications companies, public art galleries, local and central government, and research organizations.  In January 2015, she was appointed as executive manager of Te Pūnaha Matatini, a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for complex systems and networks, providing theoretical and qualitative insight to the Centre’s research programs and public engagement activities.