A whole semester doing and practicing transnational history means that we’re bound to learn some things. I mean, that would be the hope, right? I’ve decided to make a note of the top 5 things that I think I’ve learnt over the course of this module – and to be honest, the range is much broader than I would have expected.
1. What is transnational history?
On a basic level, this module does what it says on the tin – I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about what the discipline of transnational history means, and also why it might be interesting or important. Historically, I think that we tend to focus on nations as a basic building block, and to construct discussions or arguments around them. That means that the spaces between nations (and the people that inhabit those spaces) can be easily overlooked. At a basic level, transnational history focuses on networks and exchanges of ideas across traditionally defined borders and boundaries to create a far wider scope for analysis.
2. What is transnationalism?
Those ideas apply beyond history as well – this module taught me that transnationalism isn’t just a historical concept, but can be found in many different academic fields, and even in everyday life. Essentially, it encourages people to look beyond traditional ideas of nations or borders when viewing a problem. Instead, it emphasises the primacy of exchanges and dialogue across those borders, and the effects that they have. I really like this approach because it seems incredibly positive, emphasising that differences between people are largely created by borders, rather than the other way around.
3. A different angle of analysis.
I think transnationalism is quite a drastic re-think in terms of how we approach history or any academic discipline. As a result, I think this module has also demonstrated the value of approaching problems from new and inventive angles. By re-framing a question with new or different units of analysis, information that was previously unimaginable can come to light. In terms of transnationalism, I think that this is particularly relevant to emphasising the actual human experience in the writing of history.
4. Evaluate your progress.
The fact that a requirement for this module was to blog regularly has been a blessing in disguise. On the one hand, yes, it is a hassle to have to try and blog every week. But on the other hand, it has meant that I have been constantly thinking about how I’ve been progressing in the module, and evaluating my ideas as I go. In the future, I want to maintain this habit by keeping a journal or a diary for any project that I work it. It will allow me to keep developing my ideas, while also meaning that I can look back on an ideas I had in the past as reference points.
5. Study what you care about.
Something that I’ve found really hard about studying at university has been the disconnect between the two things on which I spend most of my time – theatre, and academia. I have to clearly delineate between when I’m doing which one, and I’m having to switch between the two a lot. Which means I often don’t get to enjoy either. The fact that this module has allowed me to combine them both has meant that I’ve been working on two things that I’m incredibly passionate about in one project. I hope to continue this overlap with my dissertation, that will explore the presentation of history on stage.
Overall, I think that I’ve really taken a lot out of this module, and I’ll be giving it a solid recommendation to anyone that asks. And probable some people that don’t, if I’m honest.