History, long seen as dead or residual outside of specialist circles, is now emerging from traditional media into the digital sphere, and is becoming an important area of struggle in political and social conflict. This history is triumphant in the very places where the usual forms of scientifically accredited knowledge cannot tread - or if they do they are quickly neutralized and trivialized. The withdrawal into Ivory Towers shows its difficulty in coming to terms with the challenges being posed to the epistemological status of historical research. At the same time, we have identified a new articulation of forms of domination exercised by the dominance of liberal democractic thought, which seeks to put memory and history to work and create closed pieces of softwar. Yet we also see new strategies of resistance, together with the re-appropriation of a plurality of memories, which are rising up to challenge this dominance.
Within this scenario, in which it is no longer possible to avoid the proliferation of interpretations and visions of history, we recognize history as an arena of conflict and we find historical questions within the new forms of subjectivity and practices of social and political antagonism which have emerged after Seattle - questions which struggle to find answers, or people willing to engage with them, or forums for public debate. The inadequacy of national reference points in Italy, as well as given historical timeframes, together with the marginalization of areas of research which cannot easily be reduced to traditional and self-referential political history, the resistance to engaging with work produced in other parts of the world, are all signs of discontinuity compared with recent decades, and are some of the reasons for our (a specific generation of historians who embrace various points of view and who ascribe relevance to historical work in different ways) efforts to reconfigure the past. The weaving together of our own personal development and of the work of research institutes, foundations and political movements (from NGOs to universities) is a resource which we want to turn into a space of explicitly inclusive and anti-authoritative cultural creation.
Storie in Movimento (Histories and stories in movement) is a historiographic laboratory which wants to break down the boundaries and distinctions between activist history and scientific practice, between 'high-brow' and 'low-brow' knowledge, and to bring together the different practices and subjects through which the production of historical knowledge is articulated. Storie in Movimento wants to be a pre-figuration of a history that is born not just as a reflection on the present, but also from the desire to be present, to act in the present. From this perspective, as well as criticizing the power relations that characterize contemporary historiography, we feel it essential to explore new methods in research and communication, which may dismantle monopolistic attitudes towards access to sources, the individualistic and solitary nature of historical work, the tendency to limit research to the academic market, the loss of dignity within the field and of those forced to work under these conditions. We want to create forms of intellectual work which are connected to the subjects we are addressing, neither from above nor from afar, but from within, taking into consideration all the research produced by marginalised individuals, or people detached from traditional historiography.
This project is within movements because it criticizes them, and at the same time promotes new images and new imagination, stressing priorities and drawing attention to different forms of knowledge, culture, and writing - weaving them together and bringing them into the public sphere. It creates a plurality of places, initiatives and research from which we can participates in wider historical debates, on the past and on their public uses. It gives us tools to address histories, stories and sources which have been dismissed on the orders hegemonic historical discourse, thus revealing its bias. It is a network of subjects and languages capable of capturing the widespread social need for history, of stimulating new experiences and fields of research, able to acknowledge the radical changes in social language and forms of mass communication.
We view this challenge as being crucial. We want to highlight the present, standing against the manipulation of our collective imagination, and encourage new ways of seeing the past through a historical practice which is neither elitist nor authoritarian. Storie in Movimento therefore recognizes the tradition of historical studies on class, antagonistic groups and individuals, as a shared heritage that must be examined in light of the criticisms raised by the women's movement and post-colonial studies, bearing in mind the importance of forms of resistance which are not directly political, as well as the history of subjectivity.
It is not a question of finding new heroes and heroines to substitute the old, but of incorporating an awareness of a multiplicity of subjects and histories into today's ways of representing history. We need to resist the destruction of the experience of bodies, movements and cultures carried out by the faceless capitalist forces of the IMF and World Bank; together with their invention of new enemies and new wars, and break with the spread of racial and ethnic conflicts in areas where globalisation is being resisted. We need to establish new trans-national links between forms of resistance and political subjectivities, between North and South, between different phases of historical experience. We have to achieve the full deconstruction - which was started by women's movements and large spheres of critical thinking outside the West - of the false universalisms that have characterized the categories with which we look to the past, and which today establish the frontiers, borders and peripheries of Fortress Europe. It is a question of insisting upon the complexity inscribed within the very spaces of representation (be they written, visual or oral) of diverse languages, desires and cultures that led us to begin this adventure, in a period in which the traditional outlines of identities are being destroyed.
(translation by Eleanor Chiari and Tom Behan)