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Monday, November 23, 2015

History, once written by the victors, is revised by the developers.

At Crooked Timber, Corey Robin reminds us that consciences can be flexible when parsing the fashions of history. When NYU wanted a bigger law school, it didn't hesitate to tear down the Edgar Allen Poe home, bolt the facade onto the side of the new building, and claim the preservationist's laurels:


Robin comments, 
Like the capitalist society they serve, universities erase the past all the time. Most of the time we don’t care. For the sake of progress or real estate values, we live with it. Or embrace it. 
When politicized university students ask that we revisit the nation’s racial past, however, that we rename buildings not to remove memory but to revise it, we become the most ardent preservationists. Even law professors who said not a word about the destruction of the Poe House. 
If the revision in question is for the sake of capitalism, we sigh, whisper an All That’s Solid Melts Into Air, and move on. If it is for the sake of knowledge and anti-racism, we say no, in thunder.

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