World War II Historical Reenactment in Poland
The Practice of Authenticity
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This book explores the consequences of the latest political shifts in Central Eastern Europe: the rise of right-wing parties and, among other things, politics becoming more invested in history. These phenomena coincide and overlap with the democratisation of history by turning the past into a hot topic, persistently present in the public sphere and often evoking strong emotions. Ethnographic research (conducted in 2012-2016) focusing on how World War II reenactors experience the past serves as the basis to analyse the ways in which the group uses the widespread, often institutionalised interest in history to – on the one hand – become involved in debates on World War II and the remembrance thereof, and – on the other – to authentically experience this past. The volume therefore analyses how physical the process of creating and experiencing grassroots visions of the past is, and how these visions interact with the public discourse about the past. Reenactors’ ability to marry the often-contradictory orders of historical truth, authenticity, and representation is explored. Moreover, Baraniecka-Olszewska analyses how the reenactors overcome various obstacles on their way towards authentic experiences, performing history through their bodies.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 2. Re-history: the subject of experience in historical reenactment 3. The experience of the past 4. The quest for authenticity 5. The legitimisation of authenticity6. Past/present, here/there: reenactors’ space-time 7. Impression 8. An authentic problem: women from the past 9. Can everything be reenacted? 10. Concluding remarks
Kamila Baraniecka-Olszewska works at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of Polish Academy of Sciences. She has conducted research on historical reenactment in Poland, contemporary Catholicism, religious heritage and ethnographic shows in East-Central Europe.