Embodiment NUBS 2.08
Jul 04, 2023 11:30 - 13:00(Europe/London)
20230704T1130 20230704T1300 Europe/London 1.4. Immersed in the Past: Historizing Practices of Embodied History

This panel will analyze how people have, at different times in history, used their bodies in order to get immersed in and experience the past. Immersive and affective forms of experiencing the past have seemingly gained heightened interest over the last decades: Historical personalities like Sophie Scholl were given make believe social media accounts, the majority of computer games feature historical themes, museums integrate VR applications into their exhibitions, Open Air Museums offer living history displays, and visitors can experience immersive AR tours through heritage sites and cities. Scholarship in public history and memory studies have increased their efforts to grasp, describe and analyse this overwhelming amount of performative historical practices. However, they often stick to a present day perspective. Historicising such phenomena and putting them in a long durée remains a desideratum. Embodied history is not a new phenomenon though. Concentrating on four case studies –attitudes, the Gettysburg Cyclorama, museum dioramas of the battle of Waterloo and re enactments in the GDR, the panel will discuss how the body was and is used in an attempt to "feel", "live" and understand the past from the turn of the 18th century to the present day. It will thereby ask questions like: Which rules were bodies subjected to? What were the purposes of embodying history? How was immersion in the past experienced? The phenomena that will be analyzed can all be seen as reactions to – or accelerators of – societal changes: the attitudes were an answer to a changing understanding of historical time and the emergence of disciplines like archaeology and history, the Gettysburg Cyclorama tried to freeze in time a heroic interpretation of an event that altered t ...

NUBS 2.08 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel will analyze how people have, at different times in history, used their bodies in order to get immersed in and experience the past. Immersive and affective forms of experiencing the past have seemingly gained heightened interest over the last decades: Historical personalities like Sophie Scholl were given make believe social media accounts, the majority of computer games feature historical themes, museums integrate VR applications into their exhibitions, Open Air Museums offer living history displays, and visitors can experience immersive AR tours through heritage sites and cities. Scholarship in public history and memory studies have increased their efforts to grasp, describe and analyse this overwhelming amount of performative historical practices. However, they often stick to a present day perspective. Historicising such phenomena and putting them in a long durée remains a desideratum. Embodied history is not a new phenomenon though. Concentrating on four case studies –attitudes, the Gettysburg Cyclorama, museum dioramas of the battle of Waterloo and re enactments in the GDR, the panel will discuss how the body was and is used in an attempt to "feel", "live" and understand the past from the turn of the 18th century to the present day. It will thereby ask questions like: Which rules were bodies subjected to? What were the purposes of embodying history? How was immersion in the past experienced? The phenomena that will be analyzed can all be seen as reactions to – or accelerators of – societal changes: the attitudes were an answer to a changing understanding of historical time and the emergence of disciplines like archaeology and history, the Gettysburg Cyclorama tried to freeze in time a heroic interpretation of an event that altered the political and societal makeup of the United States, the Waterloo dioramas made a battle that changed Europe readable, while the re enactments in the GDR mirror how local history and traditions were re introduced into the official socialist historical narrative. This panel thereby proposes to widen public history and memory studies' focus and expand it from contemporary phenomena to historical ones. Despite the origins of memory studies in Jan Assmann's studies on ancient cultures, in Pierre Nora's concept of „lieux de mémoire" and in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger's studies on invented traditions in the 19th century, the majority of studies on cultural memory deal with present day phenomena. Public History generally writes its own history either as a history of the discipline starting with the establishment of the degree in Public History at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1976 and/or as a practice for communicating historical content to a non academic audience, starting with the advent of local history, social history, oral history and the history of minorities in the 1970s and 1980s. Bringing together scholars working on different historical periods and geographical regions, the panel wishes therefore to scrutinize how methods and theories from current public history and memory studies research can be applied to past phenomena, as well as develop new theoretical and methodological approaches.



Steffi de Jong 

A world history in pantomimical representations

Attitudes as public history After he had attended a performance of attitudes by the actress Henriette Hendel Schütz in 1808, German poet Clemens Brentano wrote to his wife Bettina: "I have seen Hendel […] as a word history in pantomimical representations." Henriette Hendel Schütz was considered greatest attitude performer of her time. Attitudes, representations of historical paintings and statues, had been introduced by Lady Emma Hamilton at the end of the 18th century in Naples. So far, they have mostly been studied by theatre historians as a specific form of performance or by art historians who analysed how they were inspired by artworks. This paper proposes a still outstanding analysis of attitudes as an early form of re enactment and popular history education. Emma Hamilton's attitudes were inspired by the excavations in Pompei and Herculaneum that were in full swing at the time, as well as by her husband, the British ambassador Sir William Hamilton's, collection of Greek vases. Rather than merely copying ancient artworks, her attitudes tried to represent the essence of ancient art, going back to the moment in which the artwork was created. In this sense, the attitudes were an immersive performance, taking the audience back to life in antiquity – albeit an idealized form of it. They also influenced neoclassicist art, architecture and especially fashion that would soon be adopted by the high societies in London and other major European cities and was to make re enactment of antiquity part of everyday life. Emma Hamilton's successor, Henriette Hendel Schütz, extended the represented time frame of the attitudes to include Italian and German Renaissance. Together with her fourth husband, Karl Julius Schütz, a university professor turned actor, she developed an educational performance that would teach their audience different times and style schools. The attitudes were part of a contemporary discussion about theatre's ability to give history lessons. Putting Emma Hamilton and Henriette Hendel Schütz' the attitudes into a larger framework of contemporary discourses on history, the paper will show how the attitudes took up and influenced such discourses.


Christopher Sommer

The Immersive Diminutive – Dioramas at the Military History Museums

The panoramas and the dioramas are often considered predecessors of what we nowadays describe as virtual reality. While the panorama enjoyed only a short period of fame until it was superseded by film, the diorama, that is, scale representations of historical events or scenes, has endured and is a common sight in military history exhibitions. Museum dioramas are ephemeral in nature, as most museums do not consider them museum objects. Accordingly, they are dismantled and stored, gifted to other institutions, or even destroyed. Few examples of 19th century dioramas survive, the most famous being an ensemble of dioramas focusing on the battle of Waterloo. Built by Captain William Siborne (1797 1849), who, as a contemporary, had a vested interest in the battle, as well as the desire to create a lucrative attraction to the English public, they ultimately came short of Siborne's high expectations. Financial success eluded him, yet they found their way to the National Army Museum in London and the Royal Armouries Leeds, where they are an integral part of the permanent exhibitions. A more recent example is the Waterloo diorama at the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) museum in Winchester. Built in the 1970s, its beginnings are difficult to reconstruct, yet it forms the centerpiece of the current exhibition and is a main driver of its narrative and interpretation of the battle. Here, I investigate the various ways historical audiences have interacted with these dioramas in different settings: exhibition halls, museums and so on. Memory politics are an important aspect, as the battle was a matter of national pride and the role of the Prussians under Blücher was and still is a debate among enthusiasts. Another aspect this paper will address is the relationship between the diminutive and the spectator, where the physical body is juxtaposed with miniaturized depictions of human bodies that define this interaction. Fascination with the diminutive and its aesthetic qualities leads to immersion. Cognition of the scenes depicted must be seen as a function of this relationship of audiences with the diminutive.


Juliane Tomann

Embodied histories "from below": Historical Reenactment in the GDR in the 1970s and 1980s

As a popular-cultural practice, reenactment is currently an important part of historical culture as it attempts to recreate past realities and revive them in the present in an embodied, immersive and performative-sensory way. In reenactment, historical meaning is produced in a complex interplay between different elements; it occurs, for instance, in the interaction between performers and spectators and is influenced by the use of material objects and the emergence of different atmospheres. Further, reenactment emphasizes the processual nature of meaning-making and highlights its affective and emotional aspects. In popular culture reenactment has become a global phenomenon, applying a "metamethodology" to diverse local conditions and to a vast variety of forms (Noiret and Cauvin 2017: 28). One of the most iconic forms is battle reenactment in which reenactors restage important events, mostly related to military history.
Analyzing reenactments scholars often focus on the large variety of present-day phenomena; so far less attention is paid to the historical developments of reenactments. Only Few studies tackle the question how practices of reenacting the past evolved over time taking the American Civil War as an example (for instance Hochbruck, 2013). In my presentation I will focus on how embodied practices of restaging the past emerged in the 1970s and 1980s in the GDR. On the basis of reenactment groups focusing on the Napoleonic Wars I will engage with the political context in which the reenactors developed their activities in a restrictive political system. I will show how a change in the concept of regional and local history in the ideological system enabled immersive, embodied practices of restaging the Napoleonic Wars on a local level in state socialism. Restrictions and regulations of such forms of embodied and immersive history will be addressed by analyzing the role of the Ministry of State Security.

Associate Professor
,
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Postdoctoral Researcher
,
University of Oldenburg
Juniorprofessorin für Public History
,
Universität Regensburg
Research Fellow
,
German Historical Institute Warsaw
Senior Lecturer in Design History
,
Northumbria University
 Diana Popova
Research assistant/ PhD student
,
Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia / Latvian Academy of Culture
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