The Original Subaltern

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The Original Subaltern

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Title: The Original Subaltern
Author: Smail, Daniel Lord
Citation: Smail, Daniel Lord. 2010. The original subaltern. Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies 1(1-2): 180–186.
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Abstract: This essay invites readers to consider how exclusions operate in the framing of history. In conventional historical thought, agency was accorded only to the limited few. Marginals, ranging from third world nations to subaltern groups of all types, were excluded from the making of history. The task of recuperating the historicity of marginals has been underway now for decades. As I hope to suggest in this essay, however, we have yet to restore historicity to the original subalterns: the peoples of the Paleolithic. The field of medieval studies, curiously enough, is implicated in their exclusion. In the developmental narratives that emerged early in the twentieth century, medieval Europe was presented as the point of origins from which modernity sprang. To the extent that medievalists continue to reaffirm the prehistoricity of the Great Before, they instantiate the very same historical exclusion that modernists currently impose on the Middle Ages.
Published Version: doi:10.1057/pmed.2010.19
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Open Access Policy Articles, as set forth at
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