Call for papers: Panel session for Rural History 2013, Bern, Switzerland, 19-22 August 2013
Rural History and “reenactment history”: Challenges, questions, opportunities
Panel organizer: Laura Sayre, research fellow, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (UMR 1041, INRA-SAD-AgroSup Dijon)
This panel will bring together historians and others interested in “agricultural history reenactment”—defined here as projects and situations in which various aspects of agricultural heritage are explored, invoked or put to use for specific contemporary ends. Living history farms and other kinds of agricultural museums; “protected geographical indications” attached to specific foods and modes of production (Gruyère cheese, Welsh beef); antique tractor clubs and other enthusiasts’ groups, competitions and festivals; the preservation of traditional crop varieties and livestock breeds with an eye to future agricultural resilience; the reconstruction of traditional agricultural landscape systems within international rural development efforts; reality television series focused on traditional foods and farming practices—all these and more testify to the enduring appeal of at least certain elements of agricultural history for both popular and scholarly constituencies. Critical analysis of these phenomena, however, is spread across a variety of academic fields (public history, rural sociology, anthropology, archaeology, media studies), while the idea of “reenactment history” remains marginal within the academy, seemingly tainted by its association with popular entertainment. This panel proposes to rehabilitate a notion of agricultural history reenactment as a unifying framework for considering a wide variety of contemporary (or indeed historical) efforts to come to terms with, reinterpret or otherwise make use of the rural and agricultural past as a means of contending with the present (and future) of food and farming. As such, it will engage directly with the conference’s aim to discuss the future of rural history in an increasingly urbanized world: agricultural history reenactment appears to gain in popularity as the number of people directly engaged in agriculture falls, an inverse correlation that raises the stakes for historical integrity within reenactment projects. The panel will be open to scholars from a range of disciplines, studying instances of agricultural history reenactment in Europe or elsewhere. Questions to be addressed include: Why is agricultural history reenactment at once so popular and yet so curiously overlooked? What are its strengths and limitations as a means of constructing, contesting and conveying historical information? What role does agricultural history reenactment play in the maintenance of national and regional identities rooted in rural images, activities and landscapes?
Paper proposals for the session are requested by 15 February and should be sent to email@example.com
Note: this session is organized in association with an edited volume on agricultural reenactment history; individuals who are interested in possibly contributing to the book as well are especially welcome.
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