Imagining new approaches to the humanities
“What could history have been?” The question asks how events might have turned out otherwise, if only X had happened instead of Y. What if JFK hadn’t been assassinated? What if Hitler had? The official term for this kind of what-if thinking is “counterfactual history,” and it covers anything from an academic’s earnest attempt to imagine the US economy without railroads to Quentin Tarantino’s WWII redux Jewish revenge fantasy, Inglourious Basterds — anything, that is, which imagines history as it did not happen.
But the same question can be the spur to a different kind of speculation.“History,” after all, has two meanings. It’s not just the sum of past events, but the discipline that studies them. …
The May 2015 issue of National Geographic features an article entitled, “Quest for a Superbee.” This piece is illustrated by a series of extreme photographic close-ups of bees with pieces of technology attached to their bodies. One caption reads: “A syringe places a minute droplet of phenotrin on a honeybee — sedated in a paper cup — to test the effects of the potent insecticide. . . .” Another photo shows a queen with a bright yellow number 87 on her back, with the caption, “Scientists are now developing hygienic . . .