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Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon
Method Facing a Dilemma: Re-evaluating the 20th century
In the closing years of the 20th century there was extensive debate on the position of societies throughout the world. This discussion led to new approaches to everyday pursuits, which have sometimes been linked with the postmodernist condition. It was followed by a complete change in direction in many authors' approach to scholarship and society. This article discusses the revisionist tradition in social analysis and investigates in what manner Icelandic historians, or more specifically, the "Icelandic history establishment", has adopted its methods.
Groups of intellectuals in Iceland, such as poets, writers, artists and various scholars in the humanities, have taken a critical look at social developments during the 20th century and suggested that the discourse on events and ideas be opened up for a thorough revision. The progressive ideas of many scholars during the century have thus become the target of these critical voices, together with Eurocentric general history, taking its point of departure in the white, middle-class, male perspective. At the same time, Icelandic historians have continued with their research as if nothing had happened, thus circumventing an important debate on the status of scholarship and research in the world. This is clearly evident in new Icelandic works discussing either the events of the 20th century or the situation of the discipline at its close. All of them share the same characteristics; the over-emphasis of the Icelandic history establishment on general history makes its presence felt everywhere. In the article, this emphasis is referred to as the concept of general approach; it actually forces the scholars' research to follow an objective channel, whereas objectivity has in many cases been rejected in other countries. There emphasis is placed on the polyphony of disciplines, dissolving the centre, and providing space for groups which have usually be defined as being on the fringe.
The article is a critical contribution to discussion of the historical discipline in Iceland, of methods and emphases of well-known Icelandic historians and the ideology which is currently most favoured. There are various indications that young scholars are not prepared to accept this dominance of the Icelandic history establishment, and have already adopted new ideas which have been emerging in many areas of the world.
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