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Transnasjonale liv – biografi som «sammenkjedet lokalhistorie»

f. 1948, dr.philos. 1996, professor emeritus ved Høgskolen i Vestfold.


  • Side: 337-353
  • Publisert på Idunn: 2012-10-02

Artikkelen tar opp utfordringene som mobile grupper representerer for lokalhistorien. Den viser hvordan biografier kan skrives som «sammenkjedet lokalhistorie», der et transnasjonalt liv kan forbinde lokalsamfunn og lokalhistorie i ulike land og verdensdeler. Lokalhistorie kan utgjøre sentrale elementer i en personbiografi og belyse viktige sider ved hovedpersonen. Men lokalsamfunn har også blitt påvirket av mobile enkeltindivider og grupper. Transnasjonal historie kan åpne lokalhistorien mot globalhistorien og gjøre lokalhistorien relevant i globalhistorien. Og biografisjangeren kan brukes til å kartlegge forbindelser mellom lokalsamfunn på individnivå. Som eksempler omtales spesielt Martha Hodes’ bok The Sea Captain’s Wife og forfatterens kommende biografi om Peter Dahl.

Transnational lives. Biography as «connected local history»

This article seeks to demonstrate the potential of biography for combining local and global history by applying a transnational perspective to a life. Local history operating within fixed, usually administrative, borders has traditionally had problems with including mobile individuals and groups. In Norway, in particular, the time-honoured genre «farm and family history» is still a central part of most works of local history in rural districts, pre-supposing a stable and fixed connection between the two. Transnational history is offered as a perspective to encompass different spatial levels and scales, from the individual via the local to the global, with transnational lives as a prism through which the different arenas and networks of an individual can be seen. The article presents three examples of such biographies, Martha Hodes’ book The Sea Captain’s Wife, Alessandra Becucci’s article on the mercenary soldier, diplomat and art collector Ottavio Piccolomini and the author’s ongoing research on the Norwegian-born sailor, merchant and grand tourist Peter Dahl. It is obvious that local conditions have had an impact on individuals who lived in or visited a specific place or region, that local history should be an important input in the biography of any person and that place could be a structural element in the narration of a life. At the same time, however, mobile individuals and groups have contributed – for better or worse – to the local societies which they visited or resided in, however temporarily. Most of them made only marginal contributions as individuals, but as part of a group (soldiers, sailors, vagrants) they might put their mark on the life and atmosphere of at least certain parts of a local community, and be the direct cause of local measures against begging, drunkenness and epidemics. In some individual cases their impact has been much greater, as persons of power, innovators or artists. The main purpose of this article is to show the advantages of transnational history in «playing with scales», to move between different levels from individual and local to global history and thus to open up all to their mutual benefit.

Keywords: Biography, global history, local history, transnational history.
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