This is part 4 of our new series, “What is Global History at Fordham?” Today, we hear from Professor Westenley Alcenat, a member of Fordham’s Global History consortium, on what global history means to him and how it shapes his work.
“Most historical tools of analysis we have at our disposal are inherited from the territorial logic of the late nineteenth century European academy. Now that we live in a time and place where the realities of a networked and globalized world disrupted this nation-state model, the pervasive tendency to conceive of national histories as the history of localized, discrete, self-contained spaces has to exist as only one among other analytical frameworks of historical methodology. Modernizing contemporary historical inquiry cannot operate outside of an understanding of systems of interactions, institutional patterns of connectedness, and historical complexes (race, class, gender, nations and nation-states, regional, geographical, etc.,). In other words, to ignore the global in the local, and vice versa, is to articulate an almost vacuous history.
As a historian of comparative Caribbean and American slavery and emancipation, I try to avoid that analytical trap by examining my sources, as well as approach my pedagogy, through the lens of comparative historical analysis. This means starting foremost by understanding global history as NOT a study of globalization; rather, globalization is the core of global history. And in order to get closer to the historical properties at that core, I encourage students to ask questions that place events and problems in their global context. Historians working within traditional national, transnational, or world-based historical approaches can situate their different conceptual frameworks within that globalized paradigm.”