Th e Construction of Historical Equivalence: Weighing the Red and Brown Scares Th e fourth chapter constitutes a theoretical extension of Chapter 3. Drawing on the cases of the Red and Brown Scare, I ask under what circumstances are “events” considered equivalent. In what ways were the two “Scares” similar and in what ways diff erent in their origin, scope, consequences, and shared meaning? How do these similarities and diff erences aff ect the likelihood of remaining in collective memory?
Social scientists strive to create generalized knowledge. Th is 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 diff erent 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.”