Historical Re-enactment in Poland: Between Faithfulness to History and the Imperative of Spectacularity
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Institute of Sociology, Nicolaus Copernicus University. Toruń
Publication date: 2020-04-29
Polish Sociological Review 2020;209(1):3–22
The article is the result of a research project devoted to Polish historical re-enactment groups which are becoming very popular and influential and can be seen as a part of the multi-sensory culture of the event. During ethnographic research, we raised the issue of the commercialisation of historical re-enactment and the alleged educational value of the related activities, deliberating whether it was possible to reconcile faithfulness to history with the demands of commercial events, the passion with the pursuit of profit, and teaching with entertainment. The research included the evaluational dimension and questions on the role of re-enactment in the cultural policy of the country. The findings indicated that the movement was ambiguous and multidimensional and that numerous answers existed to the question about the re-enactors’ motivations essentially because the groups are divided into hobbyist re-enactors and commercial re-enactors. We found that re-enactment was effective in instilling historical knowledge, although not into the spectators, but into the re-enactors themselves. Re-enactment events usually failed to stimulate the spectators’ interest in history. A considerable majority of these events remained intellectually passive, which caused any educational effect to be momentary and superficial.