Performing Empresses and Matronae: Ancient Roman Women in Re-enactment
DGUF (Deutschen Gesellschaft für Ur- und Frühgeschichte e.V.)/ German Society of Prehistory and Early History
The great success of historical re-enactments is a product of the “affective turn” (Agnew) which characterises the postmodern approach to history and a clear symptom of the changing perception of time and temporality in contemporary culture (Assmann, Gumbrecht). Forms of “presentification” of the past are thus widespread in popular as well as “professional” history (e.g. experimental archaeology, living history museums, and even in University classes). Such a presentification can project back into the past and “naturalise”, in a non-argumentative and emotional way, values and roles, thus becoming part of the construction of an often very conservative normativity. The aim of this paper is to investigate the ways in which Roman women are represented and performed in re-enactments in order to identify, in different contexts and with different performers and audiences (from masked parties to shows in theme parks, historical re-enactments to photo-shoots), how these propose and represent expected gender roles in contemporary society.
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