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Anthropology and Museum Studies

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In this essay, I briefly review the cultural history of “historical reenactments” and consider one 19th century prelude to present-day traumatic reenactments. I then turn to three recent case studies, drawn from my fieldwork: first, the annual reenactment of a horrific 1946 mass lynching in Walton, County, Georgia; second, the daily mounting of a “historical experience” of slavery in Selma, Alabama; and third, a reenacted slave auction in St. Louis, Missouri. All these events were deeply painful for participants and observers alike, yet all opened up highly dynamic zones for cross-racial conversation, exchange, and reflection. All hold the promise, amidst great difficulty, of creating renewed microcos- mic sites of democratic co-participation.


North American Dialogue

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