Response

To reinvent the content, or slip the shackles, of area studies and the disciplines is a worthy goal. I can only say: may the force be with you. You have every prospect of success in getting scholars to send you their best on regions as sources of theory and method, connective and comparative studies of regions and newly explored transregions. The time seems ripe for those kinds of things.

About disciplines, especially disciplinary history, I am not so sure. The gesture to deep history is most welcome. But these days the time depth of the history discipline gets shallower. History is increasingly the history of a past that is decreasing. At the same moment deep history is being constructed by cosmologists, chemists, geologists, and evolu- tionary biologists. Their knowledge surges ahead, aided by new instrumentation, new techniques, new conceptualizations, new zeal for history.

What seems to hold us back is an increasing belief in the singularity of our times and increasing doubt about the ability of the remoter past to explain our times to ourselves — even in the face of the signal accomplishments of the natural sciences in doing just that. For us, the modern exerts a gravitational field that draws everything in. The modern is our black hole, which, try as we might, we cannot escape. Deep history is exactly what is needed to counteract it.

Is CSSAAME likely to stimulate the production of this life-giving tonic? Were I to have written the mission statement it would not contain the phrase early modern and would not put a limit on the time depth to which articles may go. And the invitation to consider pieces reaching farther back would not be so tepid. The tendency of the statement as written, I fear, may be to make the black hole stronger by reinscribing the singularity of the modern. Deep history does the opposite. And deep history is a force that knits up the sciences and the social sciences. I say again, may the force be with you.

© 2013 by Duke University Press