Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a slave (New York: Penguin Books, 2012). (461)

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Mann, Charles. “1491.” The Atlantic (2002): 41-53. (13)
In Charles Mann’s 2002 article, he discussed the work of Clark Erickson and William Balee, archaeologists who theorized a concept controversial to many a biologist or natural scientist – that the Amazon rainforest is a manifestation of human hands, a creation of humans over 2,000 years ago. Taking into consideration the work of previous historians, as well as the running record of modern society’s view on history, Mann illustrates a major topic in the field of the social sciences today. Because of evidence sound by Erickson and Balee, the world is able to reevaluate the way history is dictated. A great instance of this conflict arises for Mann when he asks one of the scientists whether society should continue to allow the Beni to burn, continuing the tradition and letting the developed ecosystem prosper, to let the flora and fauna “run wild” and create a new ecosystem of their own. This is the conflict faced throughout the work of Erickson and Balee – if the Amazon is, in fact, a man made apparatus should extreme efforts be taken in order to save it?
Whether it is biological, historical or anthropological, this concern regarding the cultural relevance of the Amazon calls into question many aspects of interdisciplinary studies. It asks one to questions what other parts of history have been left out, either by accident or because of racial, gender, political or religious bias. Perhaps it is even the best concern to summarize the entirety of this week’s discussion and readings. From the excerpts from Twelve Years A Slave to the work of Mann and Hadingham, these pieces represent the ability for the audience to question that powers that dictate how history is thought of and the constant stigma revolving around the, surprising, ever changing field. Regardless of more common questions regarding the road to a more accurate history, one would have to questions how society would then process the information; would we teach to young children the unbearable sadness accompanying the first hand account of slavery as detailed by Northup? Would we continue to dictate in blindness the allegiance to patriarchy and the conquistador that Mann illustrates in “A Pox on the New World”? Overall, we should look for a better means to explaining the separation of text-book history and the necessary, Zinn-esque retelling of stories, lived by real individuals, regardless of any social bias.

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