Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I’d like to write a paper that articulates some of the theoretical connections to historical reenactment that have come up often in this class. I haven’t thought them through connectively yet—mostly in conjunction with individual readings—so I’d like so synthesize some of my thinking a bit.

For example: I’m interested in Terranova’s idea that representational/identity politics fall away to a relationship of movement versus stagnation and unpredictability in networks. Specifically, I’m interested in the way that the identities of reenacted characters can be assumed/discarded at will, along with the valences and associations of those identities. An actor might choose to depict one side of a war and later another. The process recreates history with a value of precision but in doing so some of the political implications inexplicably fall away. They move through the past.

This shift has to do with a lack of direct experience and also the mediation of the event by time, but slowly, historical reenactment itself becomes a ritual, a practice. I’d like to investigate this folding of time considering, for example, that Ahmed calls emotions “the very ‘flesh’ of time.” Reenactment is the fleshy disruption of time. Ahmed says emotions develop based on a history of physical interaction, of accruing, of stickiness. I want to investigate the practice in that sense—as perhaps superficially apolitical and recreational but in reality a pairing of constructed temporality and physicality and “memory.” Berlant says that habituation—ritual--“dissolve[s] the distinction among and fetishization of memory, history, fantasy, and futurity.” Experience and narrative meld.

I’d also like to investigate Anderson’s idea that nationalism was born out of the capacities of print capitalism and Benjamin’s homogenous, empty time—what does nationalism become when time/history becomes both newly linear, performative, recreated (thus imbued with potential), and, of course, diffused of urgency? The ultimate reenactment resembles its depicted event exactly. Many hardcore reenactors have left the practice in recent years because the “gun rush” – the sound of live gunfire, the unpredictability of it – has largely been disallowed. What is the relationship between habitution/ritual and risk? What is an unpredictable ritual? A live history that has always already happened? Back to Terranova—from representation to movement…

I was particularly intrigued in the way that form worked in the Tsing this week and so I’m trying to work out a way that I might do something similar in my own paper—obviously writing about reenactment has annoyingly mimetic implications (you should see my thesis) but I wonder if there is a way to change narrative/tonal register so that in an enclosed space (an essay, a past event) something is born rather than enclosed?????? Usually these things don’t happen by conjuring/enacting them on the page (ha) but it’s a tantalizing thought, perhaps too ambitious for the scope of the paper.

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