Emmy Lindstam (University of Mannheim) (webinar)
15 April 2021 @ 14:00 - 15:30
“My History or Our History? Historical Revisionism and Entitlement to Lead”
Abstract: How do different representations of a nation’s history affect which social groups seek out, and obtain, positions of power? Across the world, political entrepreneurs wrestle over which groups are represented, and how, in collective memory. Drawing on the notion that historical representations serve to define and legitimize claims to the nation, we suggest that the way history is remembered may affect the extent to which minorities are perceived as entitled to take decisions on its behalf. Specifically, we expect that historical representations that exclude the minority group or depict them as “the other” will lead minorities to feel less entitled to assume positions of leadership, and will lead members of the majority to more forcefully deny them access to these positions. Historical representations that include the minority group and positively describe their contributions to the nation are expected to have the opposite effect. We test our theory through a virtual lab experiment in India, where Muslims are heavily underrepresented in political institutions and there is an active movement to minimize Muslim historical contributions to India, and to recast the country as a Hindu nation. Leveraging stark differences in historical depictions across official history textbooks from different Indian states and time periods, we randomly assign participants history exercises based on either an exclusive, an inclusive, or a neutral representation of history. We subsequently assess the effect of these historical representations on participants’ willingness to act as a group representative as well as their preference ranking of their group partners as group representative. Our study contributes theoretically to our understanding of the effects of historical representations on socio-political outcomes, and offers policy-relevant insights into how inclusive historical representations may encourage the political involvement of marginalized groups.