In this section, we test an analytical typology developed by Jörn Rüsen. He categorizes narrations of time or periodisation models as traditional, exemplary, genetic and critical types of narrative and these are reexamined in 4 case studies, the first dealing with one of the most prevalent periodisation schemes in the world: the division into Ancient, Medieval, and Modern History (with a focus on American historiography); another studying a subaltern dialectics with regard to these and other superimposed chronotypes (with a focus on late colonial India) ; a third considering the SpaceTime of “revolution” (from the perspective of “EurAsia”); and a fourth considering periodisation in the context of non-progressive histories (from the perspective of a non-state: Palestine).
The papers critically evaluated the typology offered and show instances of traditional approaches to periodisation which emphasize the enduring value of certain normative epochal events (such as the Italian Renaissance, the Mongolian Invasion, the French Revolution, the Fall of the Berlin Wall) and their aftermath from which general rules for the development of time, with a universal and eternal validity are formulated. They also discuss exemplary narratives which take such normative epochal events and make these events into chronotypes applicable to all kinds of different regions, times, races and state forms. Genetic readings emphasize the particular (national, racial, state) development of certain time frames within certain socio-historical and space-time contingencies, while critical approaches question the usefulness of specific periodisation schemes and the entire idea of its permanence: as Suzynne McElrone argues, periodisation is “temporal and temporary; by nature and function it is impermanent.” Indeed, all periodisations are always already “subjected to re-evaluation and likely reorganization in the future as a result of, or sometimes in order to engender, a paradigmatic turn in our interpretation of the significance of the pasts they have ordered.” In her words: “The future restructuring of periodisations may be catalyzed by uncovered aspects of the past that had remained hidden, future pasts that will have occurred in the interim, or the development of an innovative mode of thought that shifts perceptions about existent interpretations of the past.”