A post about coming to know the world
I sometimes get into a similar train of thought when I try to figure out why it makes a difference for a historian to see a place that was massively different in the past moment that the historian writes about. What do you understand better about that place at that moment? In fact, aren't you in danger of thinking you understand something about it given how different it used to look? You might, for example, be a historian studying the first four or five decades of Penn's initial colony in southeastern Pennsylvania and the Swedish trading posts that preceded it and think it's really useful to see Little Tincum Island, where the Swedes built a fort and a house for the governor. But what you see now is so different than what was seen then that you might almost be better off just imagining it from reading historical sources, because you're going to have to use a lot of imagination regardless. But somehow, someway, it does make a difference.
So many interesting things going on in this piece. I always enjoy the way you tease out the limits and possibilities of the academy. The material reality of the job vs. the intellectual pursuits of the research vs. the transformative experiences of visiting these places. Well done!
My one trip was to the funeral of a colleague, I should write a note to his family in Tel Aviv right now, I hope to see them in January. One of my random traveler experiences wwaitas that, by virtue of Egyptian and Afghan stamps in my passports, I was redirected to a corner of Ben Gurion airport to be asked some questions before being allowed to go on my way. I was not representative of the demographic waiting in that cordoned area for additional questioning. That said, in my case it was just a matter of detached waiting, excess earnestness carried the day and I never really feared being turned away. I was lucky that the only consequence was a later evening arrival at my hotel.
Oddly one of the experiences that stands out more to me was actually on my honeymoon, doing the Black Cab tour in Belfast and seeing the different strategies of propaganda of each side. Detachment was also easy there, it was more than a decade past the Good Friday agreement.
As I understand it, an especially dark side of globalization is the range of international funders of extremism, not located in the context of the country in question and not bearing the consequences of their choices, that incentivize a horrific approach to outbidding. I don't think any special knowledge is required to deplore that, but I do hope sharing what context I have with those who haven't had particular international experiences might help them pick up some context and nuance. That said, I don't have any research to back up that hope.