The Construction of Historical Equivalence: Weighing the Red and Brown Scares

Gary Alan Fine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Social scientists strive to create generalized knowledge. This is our stockin-trade. Without such theoretical claims, our work is little more than a set of curious, idio syncratic, descriptive accounts. But what can the account of a particular historical moment-and the memories of it-reveal about other moments? How can events be judged and compared? How do events fit into categories? As Olick (1999) has emphasized, collective memories are routinely linked to genres of commemoration, but is the same true of the events themselves? Under what circumstances do we perceive that events come to belong together? Social scientists wobble between the beliefs that everything is different and that everything is the same. Everything is a unique case, while every claim is an attempt to generalize. As I use the term, 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. Put another way, they are “good to think together.”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSticky Reputations
Subtitle of host publicationThe Politics of Collective Memory in Midcentury America
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781136485657
ISBN (Print)9780415894982
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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