The end of oppositional history?

Narrative constructivism - the narrative theory of history following Hayden White - has focused intensely on the search for alternative forms for history writing. At the same time, since the late 1960s, many oppositional efforts within historical research proper have been coopted into mainstream history writing and their political edge has been blunted. Microhistory and feminism, for example, have become fairly standard ways of 'doing history' in many history departments. The article proposes that, despite its radical intentions, constructivist theorizing has played a role in the institutionalization and consequent watering down of oppositional approaches. On the most basic level, this claim may be seen simply to reiterate arguments against a postmodernist universalization of difference: if 'anything goes', nothing can be used to question the status quo. The article goes beyond such a discussion of epistemological scepticism, however, investigating particular ways in which the constructivist demand for new forms of history writing has redefined the task of historians so that even opposition is considered more a representational than a political strategy.