Signing on: A Contractarian Understanding of How Public History is Used for Civic Inclusion

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (5):651-665 (2023)
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Abstract

What makes public history more than just another hill to fight over in culture war politics? In this paper I propose a novel way of understanding the political significance of how public history creates and shapes identities: a contractarian one. I argue that public history can be sensibly understood as representing groups as a society’s contracting parties. One particular value of the contractarian approach is that it helps to elucidate the phenomenon of “signing on,” where a marginalized or oppressed group is offered membership in a society without the social order being meaningfully changed.

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