Living history and reenactment

Performing the Civil War in a Connecticut field (1996).

My interest in commemorative behavior really started with my deep puzzlement about military reenactors, specifically those who depicted the American Civil War. You can read more here about my two years of participant-observation research with Civil War reenactors and what I learned about America, militarism, masculinity, and where I stood in relation to all those things.

Other writing I’ve done on living history and historical reenactment includes:

  • “Reenactment: Performing the Past” in Seth C. Bruggeman, ed., Commemoration: The American Association of State and Local History Guide (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, forthcoming)
  • Review of Enacting History, Scott Magelseen and Rhona Justice-Malloy, eds., Journal of American History, Vol 99, No 3 (Dec 2012), pp 884-5
  • Re-occupying Plimoth,” Plenary session remarks at New England American Studies Association Conference, Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, MA (November 4, 2011)
  • Cultures in Flux: New Approaches to ‘Traditional Association’ at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.” Ethnographic Overview and Assessement produced for Northeast Ethnography Program, National Park Service.
  • with Stephen Belyea, “‘Their Time Will Yet Come’: The African American Presence in Civil War Reenactment” in Hope and Glory: Essays on the Legacy of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Martin Blatt, Tom Brown, Donald Yacovone, eds. (University of Massachusetts Press, 2001)
  • “Reenactors in the Parks: A Study of External Revolutionary War Reenactment Activity at National Parks,” conducted for the 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution Committee of the National Park Service, Boston Support Office and Northeast Ethnography Program (1999)
  • Battle Road 2000,” review article, Journal of American History Vol 87, No 3 (2000), pp 992-5
Left to right: Otter and Conrad Vispo, Jean-Paul Courtens, Jody Bolluyt, Anna Duhon, Cathy Stanton, Ruth Piwonka

Postscript: I got to step back into a costume at the end of the Ethnographic Landscape Study project at Martin Van Buren National Historic Site when some of the other project researchers and I staged a multi-time-period tour of the farm. Conrad Vispo of the Farmscape Ecology Program played a nineteenth-century editor of an agricultural journal, I played the early twentieth-century daughter of a neighboring farmer, and Jean-Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm played himself.

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