Hooded penitents in Spain illustrate our need of history in understanding culture

Hooded penitents take part in Holy Week processions in Spain – Telegraph.

These images (from the Telegraph) will not translate well for an American audience.  The appearance of the hooded penitents will conjure a direct association to the KKK for most of us.  It is, however, an inaccurate association, despite how readily we will all make it.

The photographs are a perfect illustration of how much we depend on history in making sense of what we see in foreign encounters, cultures and texts.  How difficult is it to make sense of things that are foreign to us?  Do we immediately jump to snap judgments or do we look for sources and background on what we are seeing?  History teaches us the skill.

A knowledge of history will also provide a logical intervention preventing snap errors in our judgment.

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Filed under Editorials on education, Historian's Journal

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