Power Determines what History to be Told and How it will be Told


History is a powerful tool that connects us to the past and it plays important part our present lives. It determines who we are, were we come from, why and how we do what we do in every day. By knowing the history we are able to define our beliefs and why we do believe them. The history also narrates the events and facts that happened in the past. That event leaves a moment in our lives that we always remember, although the way we remember it is different and not all stories are told in a same way and the same degree.

As Judith and Nakayama stated in their book “Intercultural Communication in contexts”, the way and what history to be told is determined by different factors The way and what history to be told is determined by different factors It depends on the type of history, the importance of the history and whom it is important to. It also depends on what to be told, who will tell it and how it will be told, and whose story to be told.  Some examples of history are family history, national history, ethnic history, race history, gender history, and so on.   Family history is mostly narrated in an unwritten form (oral form) and people usually pass generation by generation.  For example, in United States, most people came from other counties around the world and most of them are eager to trace their roots through family history. By knowing your family history makes you aware who you are and it shapes your identity.

The national history (USA) usually contains the events that important to the country or major discoveries that took place in the past. For example the founding fathers, the civil war between the south and the North, the telephone invention and so on. The way, how and what to be told these histories is determined the power, specially the government power.  For example the government controls what to be taught at schools.  An excellent example is the conflict that arose from the history text book changes Texas in 2010, where some people wanted to change some contents in the history text books. The historians were claiming that the erasing some contents from history text books will erase part of history of our country and the there is no substitutes at all.

Another example is the attack on Mexican – American studies in Arizona. Arizona officials were claiming that the Mexican history teaches the student the hate and should not be taught at schools. They were also claiming that these people want to overturn the USA government (http://www.insidehighered.com). In contrast, the both student and teachers were claiming that they were benefiting from this class and the high school drop outs decreased greatly. Despite these positive outcomes, the government shut of the program.

Some histories are not well represented, such as the slavery history and the way it was represented was determined the power. As the Beverly Tatum, the author of the “Why are All black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” indicated in her book,  the history of the slavery is not well represented at schools because no  one talks about  the side and how  African- Americans viewed the slavery.  The details of the revolutionary war against the slavery are also missing in history text books.

Another untold history is the women’s history.  Due to the power of men, women suffer a lot in the past and they fought their rights a lot but it was barely mentioned in the text books until recent years. As we see, the power is what determined what history is told and what history is hidden ad silenced. Another hidden history and not talked that much is disability history. As the Burch and Sutherland, the authors of “Who’s Not Here yet- American Disability History” stated, the disability history is historically forgotten and it barely talked about. Historically, the disability were viewed the unfit, and less intelligent, and these assumptions hide the disability history until recent years. Due the missing parts of this history effected our perceptions and the way we view them.

As we saw, there are different kinds of histories, family history, national history, disability history, and so on. These stories are not told in a same way and the power determines how it will be told, who tells it, and what to be told. Any missing or hidden histories effected our present time and the intercultural communication.


  1. Judith N. martin and Thomas K. Nakayama. “Intercultural Communications in Contexts”. Chapter 4. Pages 120-158.
  2. Kaustuv Basu. “Arizona officials target Mexican-American studies Department” 2012. The Inside Higher ED. (http://www.insidehighered.com.
  3. Beverly D.  Tatum, “Why all the Black kids Sitting Together in the cafeteria?”. 1997.
  4. Susan Burch and Ian Sutherland. “ Who is Not Here Yet. American Disability History. Pages 127-147.

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by | May 30, 2012 · 10:55 pm

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