The construction of historical equivalence: Weighing the Red and Brown Scares

Gary A Fine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Whether two events "belong together," cognitively and in terms of collective memory, requires that we develop classification strategies. Historical equivalence refers to the perception that two events, separate in space and time, belong to the same cognitive category, or speak to the same issues. They are "good to think together." Rejecting a radical constructionism that suggests that everything is a matter of ontological preference, I argue, following Gubrium (1993), that interactionists should prefer a cautious naturalism. While interests and resources affect the presentation of historical claims, an obdurate reality permits the evaluation of empirical claims of comparability. To determine historical equivalence, we need to examine events in light of their magnitude, metaphorical continuity, analogous causation, and comparative effects. To examine the construction of historical equivalence, I discuss the similarities and differences between the Red Scares of 1919 and the late 1940s and the Brown Scare of the early 1940s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-39
Number of pages13
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


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