To study the US history in the 21st century: challenges, research optics, opportunities. Interview with professor Jennifer Klein
Ph.D. Student (History), Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Kyiv, Ukraine
Abstract. In 2021 Joe Biden came to power under the slogan «Battle for the Soul of the Nation». In the election campaign, his team saw it necessary to emphasize the idea of national unity around American democratic institutions and values. These values are interpreted quite traditionally for the U.S. — from the national exceptionalism ideology prism. History plays a significant role here: it increasingly fills ideological vacuums and becomes a tool for legitimizing political or economic action.
Such political rhetoric today is only one of the symptoms of a general turn. A new revisionist wave in academic history is currently underway in the U.S. It reflects not only the topical debatable issues of American national history but also the ideological and constitutional crisis in the country. The content of discussions surrounding history teaching in educational institutions demonstrates the continuity and durability of this problem, which has been ongoing for more than 70 years. The transnational turn in American Studies increased attention to scientists’ research outside the U.S. and initiated the distancing of academic research from the dominant national mythos. However, in Ukraine, most research remains in the outdated Myth and Symbol School paradigm.
Jennifer Klein, Professor of History in the field of 20th Century U.S. history at Yale University, specializes in social history and considers its approaches and methodology the most promising in understanding the origins of modern socio-economic and political trends. This article presents the interview with Professor Klein conducted in July 2022. We discussed the challenges to understanding the multi-ethnic history of the U.S., functions of history in social life, the problem of constructing a modern national American historical narrative, forms of its dependence on the political conjuncture, and the prospects of contemporary research on U.S. history.
Key words: Jennifer Klein; U.S. History; American Studies; Transnational turn; «The 1619 Project»; social history.
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