Transnational as comparative history:(Un) thinking differences in the self and others

Issues of comparison lurk in the subterranean recesses of transnational studies but
rarely enunciated. This chapter explores these recesses. It weaves together different
historical and theoretical considerations in a history of history. It examines two
sacraments of contemporary history, context, and archive, the heart of contemporary
analyses, are examined as the inscription of a particular ordering of time in cultural
practices and a realism that erase differences in its modes of comparing. A different
historical strategy is offered as a history of the present for exploring difference through
examining systems of reason. Notions of the “indigenous foreigner” and “traveling
libraries” are suggested to consider how cultural principles are generated, assembled
and connected in discontinuous time and spaces for understanding difference. The
intent is to outline a mode of analysis for thinking about constructions of difference
through examining the principles of ordering and classifying what is seen, thought about
and acted on.