What constitutes a history? Is this term to be restricted to the works of recognized historians? Or can information about the past gained through dreams, spirit possession rituals, or dancing performances also count as histories? Instead of dismissing such productions as "myth" or "religion," Charles Stewart contends in Dreaming and Historical Consciousness that our definition of history must be widened. This move is crucial in a global setting where alternative historical practices require appreciation as systems of thought rather than rejection as inferior types of knowledge.
Villagers on the Greek island of Naxos have long experienced dreams of saints directing them to dig up buried objects. These dreams impelled the villagers to become both archaeologists and historians striving to uncover a past that would alter their future. Dreaming and Historical Consciousness elucidates these dreams of the past-present-future in terms of local cosmology and theorizes them as existential expressions of the struggle for agency. This ethnography of historical consciousness offers new insight into how people imagine the past, consciously and unconsciously, in daily life.
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