Publication details

Being Fair Towards the Dead? Historians and Power Relations in Research into Inquisitional Records

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Year of publication 2013
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

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Description This paper focuses on the question of whether historians, who essentially deal with long dead people, should nevertheless pay attention to fairness and symmetrical relations in research. I argue that fairness should not be dealt with as merely a matter of political correctness – unimportant where no real danger of the "objects" striking back at the scholar is perceived – but as having quite some epistemological significance. There are a handful of stimulating reflections on the ethics of research into inquisitional records and on analogies between the historian and the inquisitor (for example by Carlo Ginzburg, Renato Rosaldo and John H. Arnold) showing that ethical issues have to be dealt with seriously in this type of research, as the authentication of information in inquisitorial records by the scholar is in fact a way of empowering certain historical actors, often necessarily against others. This paper takes these reflections as its starting point and addresses some questions about the triangle of power relations being established between the inquisitor, the deponent, and the historian.
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