New publication: “Nostalgia and the Historians” in IHJE

“Is there a trend of nostalgia in our culture today?”, asks Arja Virta. Her essay suggests that she thinks so and she is far from the only one. Indeed, her diagnosis is shared by many observers, especially when it comes to popular culture. Every sequel, every remake triggers complaints about a widespread sense of nostalgia, a yearning for the past. No one has made this case more eloquently than the British music critic Simon Reynolds, whose 2011 book Retromania forcefully argued that pop culture is addicted to its own past. Yet, it is not pop culture that Virta is interested in but rather the heritage industry and the commercialization of history. She specifically mentions “ceremonies and cultural products that describe the past or are derived from the past, the nurturing of heritage objects, or the re-enacting of historical episodes or scenes”, which she calls “nostalgia light”. Again Virta is not the only one to describe such phenomena and practices as nostalgic. Nonetheless, I would somewhat challenge this view. …

The complete text was published in the International Journal for the Historiography of Education and was a comment on Arja Virta, ‘About Nostalgia and Its Consequences for Writing and Using History’ in the same issue.