People in Funny Clothes and Other Historical Topics

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.

One thought on “People in Funny Clothes and Other Historical Topics”

  1. I too struggle with the question of where the burden of education lies. Are experts in any given field obligated to disseminate new information to a public that is unwilling to take the time to learn? Or does the burden fall to the editors of Wikipedia? It’s a hard question.

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