“Seeking Grants: More Than Money” (“Pursuing funding support as a graduate student or postdoc can help your career — and in more ways than one”)
The Making of a Successful Proposal (from 1987, but still relevant)
“Seeking Grants: More Than Money” (“Pursuing funding support as a graduate student or postdoc can help your career — and in more ways than one”)
The Making of a Successful Proposal (from 1987, but still relevant)
Wow!…. Just wow! After reading the articles I had a completely different idea in my head of where the conversation would go about them. After reading some of the responses I was shocked to see that it turned to the prejudice (and yes as what I saw I believe was judgement of people that no one of us knows personally i said prejudice…) idea that these “older white males” were looking for a time when they were in charge. As a historian, I thought of the idea of reenacting as a way to keep history while also escaping one’s own grinding life as something both harmless and possibly exiting. I find it ridiculous that the practice happens to be more popular with a certain race, age range, and gender inherently makes it exclusionary, especially when both articles showed more inclusion on the part of the reenactors by far. I found the most important part of the article to be the idea that,”But what all institutions focused on the Civil War (era) all have in common is a belief that history matters… And in doing so, they believe that our lives and those of our communities are greatly enriched.”(“Why Doesn’t Anyone Think It’s Cool to Dress Up Like a Confederate Soldier Anymore?”) History is full of unfortunate things like racism, slavery, genocide, and general atrocities but that does not mean that people reenact certain times because they believe that these things are right but because they want to escape their own existence, which too has all of the aforementioned terrible things. Nor should it mean that we simply choose to forget the past. This video shows how even a single claim that a Civil War reenactment by Middle schoolers could be canceled by a single claim of racism or sexism. ( http://www.kiro7.com/news/local/parents-complain-schools-civil-war-reenactment-racist-sexist/266085812 )Are their racists and misogynists among reenactors? Probably, but that is in line with the fact that there are racists in the world today.
With the Wikipedia articles I felt quite different. It was made clear that people’s ideas were being suppressed because of their views, ideas or gender. Therefore I think that Wikipedia needs to reevaluate their process and goals. (Of course I do not really care for Wikipedia anyway nor ever have due to the idea that I have known people that think they know a lot more than what they do because someone told them so…)The only other thing I can say is somewhat of a repeat of what I stated above which is, the world was not and is not a perfect place. In opening Pandora’s Box of equality there is always a blow back of sorts from those that were/ are privileged.“It is ironic,” he said, “because I like these things — freedom, openness, egalitarian ideas — but I think to some extent they are compounding and hiding problems you might find in the real world.”(Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List) Lastly I would say that I understand the idea that Mrs. Gardner said it best in the idea that all people should be encouraged to put their voice forward when she said, “Gender is a huge hot-button issue for lots of people who feel strongly about it,” she said. “I am not interested in triggering those strong feelings.”(Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List)
The webpages that I read suggested a few good points about how history should be getting preserved, and how it should be taught to the public. The first of the web pages to discuss would be Kowalczyk’s “Embedded wth the reenactors,” in which the author Nick Kowalczyk, describes the details of the reenactment of the French and Indian War’s battle from July 6, 1759. Kowalczyk, a professor at Ithaca College and a journalist, provides us with a tremendously insightful view of the reenactment held 250 years later in Fort Niagara State Park. The reenactment itself is “the largest event of its kind in the world.” (Kowalcyzk, Embedded with the reenactors). His description of the people involved and the detail and planning that goes into such an event is very interesting. Nick writes, “its not every 4th of July you get to be around nearly 3,000 people inhabiting an amalgam of time, especially in a place as lovely as Fort Niagara State Park.” Kowalczyk then shifts the discussion from reenacting famous battles to discussing the Sovereignty Day of Iraq, and the state of our government as President Obama worked to stabilize the American economy and work toward nationwide affordable health insurance. One of the participants summed up the significance of the Siege of Fort Niagara from the French and Indian War by saying, “This battle here is the reason today we ain’t speaking French.”
Ann Little’s “The limited (and queer?), vision of American historical reenacting” examines much of the substance of Kowalczyk’s piece and questions the reenactors’ desire to reenact the battles of the North American past. Little describes Kowalczyk’s article as “noteworthy” primarily due to the fact that “they’re not Civil War reenactors, they’re reenactors of the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) . . .” Little also questions why people would want to reenact wars from centuries ago when there are currently wars going on in present day. Little describes in her own words, “the reenactors seem a little strange, even almost ‘queer’ for their love of reliving the past and their feelings of always being out of time in the present.” Little is trying to determine whether it is normal or sane to relive the lives and times of the people and events that have played out in the form of war and despair. She also discusses the fact that most reenactors are middle aged, white guys and questions this heavy male-gender activity. She has apparently attended many reenactments from civil war to Boston and is impressed with the amount of research and expertise that the reenactors have accumulated.
Kevin M. Levin’s web page in the Atlantic further bridges more information on how reenactors of the battles of American history, and public engagement in history is linked. Levin discusses how the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which marches around and yells phrases like, “Kill Yankees,” may be alienating many people from younger generations. Levine states the Sons of Confederate Veterans may have a “preferred view of history flies in the face of the last 40 years of serious scholarship . . .” (Levine, Why Doesn’t Anyone Think it’s Cool to Dress Up Like a Confederate Soldier Anymore?)
Noam Cohen also addressed gender in his article “Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List” web article on the New York Times. Cohen says, “less than 15 percent of its hundreds of thousands of contributors are women.” It is very important for Wikipedia to have more female contributors to effect balance and perspective.
Timothy Messer-Kruse’s article, “The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth” on Wikipedia details his in-depth expertise on the Haymarket Riot and Trial of 1886, in particular. Messer-Kruse discusses the “undue weight” policy, which states that “articles should not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views.” Even though his information is correct, it is the “minority” view” as Wikipedia goes along with the views of the majority. In response to Messer-Kruse’s criticism of Wikipedia, Famiglietti actually argues against Messer-Kruse’s contention that “Wikipedia [has a] lack of respect for scholars,” and contends that Wikipedia is, instead, “holds a deep respect for a collaborative scholarly process . . . “. Famiglietti believes that such collaboration is more “capable of producing ‘truth’ than any individual scholar.” Wikipedia is also guarding against vandals or incorrect editing.
Reading through these articles, as well as many of the class’s responses, highlighted an aspect of the community’s wider opinion of reenactment that I suppose I was unaware of. Despite the many years of being made fun of for doing reenactments, no one has ever suggested that by choreographing sword duels and discussing the finer points of foam-tipped archery that I am perpetuating toxic white masculinity. No one has pointed at my hobby and called it inherently racist or sexist before. While these articles in particular focused on black powder reenacting in the United States, there are legitimately dozens of other kinds of reenactments that romanticize the past in similarly historically problematic ways that do not seem to carry the emotionally-charged connotations as those covered in the articles for this week.
Kowalcyzk suggests that the problem rests not in reenacting itself, but in the stories that we choose to tell. The Historiann article suggests that reenactment is a white thing. Both seem to think that the practice is rooted in a deep seated need to return to a time when white men were in control of everything, and that reenactors respond to the rush this simulated power gives them. For some, I’m sure that is true, if subconsciously rather than overtly. In any case, it is interesting to see an argument constructed by non-reenactors as to why so many who engage in the hobby are older, white, and male. I can tell you that reenacting is prohibitively expensive, if you do not have parents willing to fund your eccentricities.
As for Wikipedia, I suppose I can see both sides. As an expert in the field, it would be frustrating to have someone else tell you that incorrect sources are more credible than you are, without a helpful explanation as to why. As for Wikipedia, I imagine they are overworked and underfunded, having to spend much of their time looking for vandalizations. Since many denizens of the internet cannot help but destroy nice things someone else has created, I imagine it makes the editors rather testy to have someone repeatedly change a page after being told no.
By the time I finished reading Kowalczyk’s “Embedded with Reenactors,” I was fired up and ready to rant about it. And then, I found that Historiann did it for me. And, in a way, so did The Atlantic. As I began, Kowalczyk’s article ignited a couple of important questions for me: Is there a particular reason why the majority of these reenactors are middle-aged white dudes? Also, does the popularity of reenactment rise and fall based on the political and social realities of present time?
Don’t even get me started on the masculinity angle of these articles. You’ll get a blog post in the form of a dissertation.
Historiann’s article (by far my favorite piece this week) said it best: “Romanticizing the past, like reenacting, is a White thing.” And I think this is where I get hung up most on the idea of it all. Going back and romanticizing a time in which everything sucked for everyone but you is not something I could ever get behind. How many Civil War reenactors go out to the battlefield fired up to pretend to fight to free the slaves? (Okay, yes, I know, how many actually did in 1862, either…) I think that’s why I love Hamilton, the musical – sorry, Joe – it’s thoughtful reenactment: perhaps not accurate, but it gets as close to romanticization as possible, while using a cast made up of persons of color to highlight exactly why romanticizing history is problematic.
The Atlantic’s “Why doesn’t anyone think it’s cool to dress up like a Confederate soldier anymore?” touched on my question about addressing the present a little bit. In order to allow reenactments to survive into later generations, the reasons for it have to stay relevant. The obsession with the Civil War in the 1960s wasn’t just because it was 100 years – it was because the country was once again divided. In a different Atlantic article linked from the first, the same author, Kevin Levin, talks about how many bastions of southern (cough, white) pride once again felt threatened by the state of racial affairs in the United States, in the 60s. To celebrate the Civil War was to celebrate a heroic lost cause, and to perhaps even prepare to finish the job for good this time. The next generation of, um, prideful celebrants of heritage, are a little more bold in their remembrances than just wearing old military costumes and playing pretend. They are, terrifyingly, playing the game for real. I would be interested to know if any of them have fathers or grandfathers who are reenactors.
This also falls to the fact that Confederate memorials are being taken down, public places are being renamed, and “heroes” are remembered for what/who they really were. The reality is that social views are changing, and the volume of mainstream dialogue about how harmful celebrating things like, you know, racist murderers, is not so cool, is getting louder.
As for the Wikipedia gender gap… pffft.. shocker, there. People tell us that you can use Wiki to get a leg up on your research, as long as you scroll down to the bottom and look at/use the sources. I’ve spent months researching one particular person and just the other day decided to take a look at what wikipedia has to say about her: paragraphs of narrative with no sources. Cool. So how to professionals get in there, with the hope of presenting real, quality research to the public, and are denied? Sigh. This is why I don’t even take a glance: not just to avoid finding inaccurate information, but to also avoid going into a blind rage at the way that the site itself is run.
This was a long one. My bad.
Reenacting has always been an interesting topic to me. After reading a fantastic book in Dr. Walker’s class, Confederates in the Attic, I have an even deeper interest in the subject. Reenacting can be a cool, historic thing to partake in, or a problematic thing problematic people partake in (specifically Civil War re-enactors who still believe the South won the war and/or “will rise again”). The best quote from Nick Kowaleczyk’s Salon article was: “Psychologically, those reenactments must have been a way of keeping past traumas real and under control; a means of talking about tough experiences with people who’ve been through the same. But I’ve never understood why anyone would reenact a war in which they’ve never fought,” in reference to the earliest American reenactments. This is exactly how I feel about reenactments. For people who lived through it, this can be a cathartic, healing experience. For the people who didn’t live through it, sometimes their intentions can be perpetuating something that is difficult for Americans to even think about (cough cough, Civil War and its repercussions).
Little’s article, “The Limited (and queer?) vision of American historical reenacting” addresses most of the concerns I have for reenactments as well. A lot of re-enactors are pulled to reenacting because of the type of past they want to live in. And this seems to be a thing white men are into. They are romanticizing an event or era that was particularly racialized and a really good time for only white males. Is there a way for us to change this? Should we?
Another area of interest that was brought up in this week’s readings is the gender of authors of Wikipedia articles. First of all, how did Wikipedia even get to a position where the New York Times is writing about it? And also, fact driven, internet based things pertaining to the past also seems to be a white man thing. Interesting… The articles surrounding Wikipedia made me very skeptical of the whole site. To read about Messer-Kruse’s experience with changing an article he had a lot of knowledge on seems childish and almost not worth it. But then, it also raises this question of, should we as historians care about websites like Wikipedia and should we be “fixing” articles since Americans use it daily? To this question, I have no answer.
I think historical re-enactment serves a purpose to attract crowds to historical places to put them, if only for a few moments, into the era they are learning and exploring. I remember watching a civil war union soldier demonstrate the different positions and instructions in rank and file movements at Fort Pulaski and other civil war forts around the south. Castile de San Marcos did a Spanish canon firing demonstration at the Castile every hour all in Spanish. These presentations were done by Park Service Interpretive Rangers, which had knowledge and history of the areas. Do I think that regular people who decide to do re-enactments are not qualified to do them? No. I think some of them really believe that it gives them a purpose in life and they take it to the next level by actually living the life style as authentically as possible. Re-enactment to me is no different than people who go to comic con dressing up to be their favorite super hero. I do think there is some differences in dressing up and re-enacting a historical event over a dressing up and being a super hero. But in the end, you are dressing up and pretending to be something you’re not, which allows people to escape their boring day jobs and do something they feel passionate about. Nick Kowalczyk article about being embedded with re-enactors says it best: “Like drag shows, re-enactments hinge on sartorial panache. If a man’s otherwise period-correct outfit includes modern-day buttons or eyeglasses, it might as well have come from K-mart.” I feel that re-enactment is a worthy sub culture that does serve a purpose in some regards as long as it is historically correct.
The Historiann article did bring up good points on Nick’s article in regards to if as a United States citizen, you want to get the full idea of battle and war why not join in the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan? This article also brings a good point on race that white people seem to want to relive the past more than other races. “Perhaps this is what makes me uncomfortable about reenactors—their interest in reenacting violent events (warfare, principally) which from the first Anglo-Indian wars of the seventeenth century through our modern wars, were either explicitly racialized wars (most Anglo-Indian wars, he Mexican War, and the wars waged by the Frontier Army against Native Americans) or wars that mobilized ethnic difference and white racism in the war effort (as in World War II and the war with Japan, the Vietnam War, and Iraq and Afghanistan).”  I have never thought about this perspective before but it does make sense when it comes to reenactments that it is mostly a white thing.
The Wikipedia articles made me think and ponder why women would be more hesitant to contribute to an online forum their opinions? I know and have been influenced, even had my views changed, by many talented and intelligent women in my life. Then I thought back to the conversations we all have had in this class and things I have read and heard on National Public Radio (NPR). Women get harassed online and in society by men who for reason or another can’t allow women to share their opinions and knowledge through different online resources. To see first-hand how women are treated in other countries I have been to, then to come home and see that through the internet and social media this is happening in the United States angers me.
 Kowalczyk, Nick. “Embedded with the reenactors.” Salon. Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012.
 “The Limited (and queer?) vision of American historical reenacting.” Historiann. January 9, 2012.
I began this blog by thinking of reenactors as people unable to cope with modern-day realities. Then I have an “aha!” moment where I came to see reenactors in the context of those who believe that old buildings are better and more important than new buildings. For me, saving old buildings of historical significance makes sense, but not reenacting. Why? I’m dodging the answer for lack of space, but it is worth exploring.
Reenactors seem to long for a world where their white-male privilege remains intact and where they can equate themselves to people they believe are tougher and untainted by modernity. Kowalczyk and Historiann reinforce this idea when they say reenacting is, “more widespread among white men…Romanticizing the past is a White thing.” While Kowalczyk’s Old Hickory and Captain Titus may be the most extreme examples, they are separated from most reenactors only by degrees. In the few examples given of women participating, their roles seem to reinforce this image of white-male dominance.
Dominant white-males appear to be central to Levin’s article about the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The article also highlights the ambivalence to these re-enactments as fewer reenactors and spectators seem to indicate a backlash against this view of history. Levin notes this may be true, if for no other reason than, “What we do know is that the SCV has done everything in its power over the past few years to alienate reasonable people.” It seems clear that these folks want a whitewashed history so as to maintain their sense of superiority and purity. Dillon Ruth is a reflection of their problem.
I was both disturbed and encouraged by the efforts to make Wikipedia more accurate. The efforts to curate articles were encouraging, but the weighting of articles seems to slow down updating articles with the latest scholarship, as noted in Messer-Kruse’s piece. However, I do feel that Famiglietti made a good case for the current system, which constantly reviews ways to improve. The lack of diversity among content and content-authors is depressing. In this community, I thought there would be more acceptance of women and female-centered content. It would be interesting to know, is this a gender issue or is minority-related content and minority generate content also under-represented? If yes, all of us have work to do.
“Embedded with the reenactors” stirred some strong feelings for me. As I’ve said before, I love Old Fort Niagra. Reading Kolwalczyk’s description took me back. Which is why I think reenacting is popular with certain people, a yearning for something that might be missing in their lives at that moment. That’s not to say that everyone who reenacts is missing something in their lives, but the way the “hobby” is portrayed, that’s what it looks like from over here.
Regarding wearing Confederate grey, I think less people wear it these days because no one wants to play on the loosing team. But all joking aside, that article illustrated some of the reasons reenacting is popular with an older whiter crowd. They came of age in the ’60s, when there were three television channels, and nothing much else to do besides play outside. And what better to do than rehash the days of “Cowboys and Indians”, or the Rough Riders up San Juan hill, or Pickett’s charge.
But to me, reenacting, as it is presented in Kolwalczyk’s article, is worshiping at the altar of toxic masculinity. Having just read Kolwalczyk’s piece that Ann Little recommends, I think he might believe it too. And perhaps that’s why there aren’t reenactments of suffragettes. And maybe the wounds are still too fresh to have reenactments of the civil rights struggle, especially in the wake of current “situations”. Reenactments “thumb their noses” at the losers, which is why French-Canadians try to disrupt the reenactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and Northern Irish Catholics get so incensed when Northern Irish Protestants march through their neighborhoods on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.
With regards to Wikipedia, I have no words. It is an online encyclopedia, and given the way it is set up there has to be some kind of regulation. But credentials should count for something.
These articles bring up some good points on how to think about history done from non-historians. Where do we draw the line on scholarly authority? Are sound resources the key in the debate? I feel like I change my mind on that subject weekly and do not ever have a concrete opinion on the matter.
With reenacting, I appreciate that on any one battlefield you can have casual enthusiasts who are just there to have fun mixed in with the hard-cores who are particularly proud of their authenticity and dedication. As brought up in “The Limited (and Queer?) Vision of American Historical Reenacting”, much of this reenacting is done by older, white men romanticizing the past. It makes me wonder how many men don their reenactor roles to “escape” into a hyper-masculine world against a changing society that may seem “threatening” to them. I’m sure many are passionate about history, but to some maybe only in a way that maintains white patriarchy. The few articles referencing reenacting made me think of the book that some of us read last semester titled Confederates in the Attic, which addressed the undying nature of the “War of Northern Aggression” to Southerners. To many, reenacting connected them to their heritage and a simpler, better time. The Civil War refuses to die because the war is still so personal. This book was published in 1998, so I’m wondering if between 1998 and 2012, perhaps the Civil War mania began to lessen as “Why Doesn’t Anyone Think It’s Cool to Dress up like a Confederate Soldier Anymore?” suggests with dwindling attendance at Sons of Confederate Veterans events.
Another side note on “The Limited (and Queer?) Vision of American Historical Reenacting”, a remark was made that maybe in the future we will see women and minorities reenact struggles and confrontations in the future. This comment reminded me of people who had dressed up to participate in the Women’s March in January. Particularly, I thought of a few women I saw dressed up at Victorian Suffragettes. I do not know if those women would consider themselves reenactors, but I thought it was a step in the direction that the articles was talking about, and an example of connecting yourself to history to prove a point.
Regarding Wikipedia, all of the information was new to me, feeding into the statistic that women are not as active contributing as men. Since I have never tried to edit an article, I did not know the content and source guidelines. It does make me feel better about getting quick facts and an overview since there are guidelines in place to deter internet trolls, but I can understand Messer-Kruse’s frustrations. Being an expert in your field and then told that you do not have the right kind of sources to edit a Wikipedia article would drive anyone crazy.