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20 - Reenactment as Resistance

from Part II - Worlds Made and Remade

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2022

Kathleen Diffley
Affiliation:
University of Iowa
Coleman Hutchison
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
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Summary

Though Civil War battle reenactment is widely viewed as a set of regressive practices defined by a preoccupation with the past, African American-centered performances highlight its transformative potential in terms of offering counternarratives to dominant memories of the era and connecting the war and its legacies to the present. Traditional reenactment, as performed primarily by white men, focuses more on authenticity, masculine gunplay, and battle minutiae, which has the impact of divorcing the practice from its causes and consequences. Black reenactments focus more on the pedagogical goals of recentering visitors’ focus on slavery as the primary cause and emancipation as its most important consequence. This recovery of African American memory alters the meanings assigned to the sacred space of the battlefield and offers a critical interrogation of many of the core assumptions about contemporary Blackness, both of which further enhance the practice’s resistant potential.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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