Gender, race, culture, history:

Colloquium & methodological workshop
April 6 & 7, 2012

Mark Auslander, Anthropology & Museum Studies (CWU)
Melissa Stuckey, History
Aletta Biersack, Historical Anthropology
Robert Thompson, Sociology & Ethnic Studies (OSU)

colloquium talk:
Re-enacting race, re-enacting gender: cross-dressing and embodied memories of terror
Mark Auslander
Associate Professor, Anthropology & Museum Studies
Director, Museum of Culture and the Environment
Central Washington Univeristy

Courtesy of the, Brandeis University's Independent Student Newspaper

For the past six years, a multiracial group of activists has annually reenacted a horrific 1946 lynching of four young African Americans at the hands of fifteen of so Klansmen in rural Georgia. Although organizers and participants are deeply committed to the “emotional authenticity” of the reenactment, these performances occasion complex transpositions and blurrings along lines of race, gender, sexuality and social class. In the initial 2005 performance, the roles of Klansmen were entirely played by African American men wearing white hockey masks; many of these men of color, in consequence, began to ponder their own capacity, as men, for violence and mob action. In subsequent years, the Klansmen have been played by a mixture of white men, African American women. and white women, some of whom identify themselves as lesbian or queer.  These complex collaborations have encouraged some working class African American participants to interrogate taken-for-granted homophobic and hetero-normative discourses in their immediate environs, and to engage in unexpected conversations about gender, sexuality and the contours of moral citizenship. Yet emerging cross-racial solidarities among women involved in these performances have also been deeply challenged by debates over how purported violence against the fetus of one of the murdered women should be represented, since such imagery intersects with bitter struggles over abortion rights in Georgia.  Attempts to encompass mimetically the unspeakable horrors of Jim Crow-era racial violence thus catalyze difficult journeys of critical collective and self-discovery along present-day frontiers of gender, sexuality and personhood.

Discussants: Dr. Robert Thompson, Dr. Aletta Biersack, Dr. Melissa Stuckey

Methodology workshop:
Gender, race, culture, history: historical ethnographic and ethnographic archival methodologies

Auslander's recent book, on University of Georgia Press

The Methods workshop will introduce students to historical ethnographic and ethnographic-archival methods in the context of sociocultural anthropology and critical cultural studies. These methods utilize ethnographic approaches to documentary records, as well as utilizing ethnographic methods to find the unwritten histories missing or erased from traditional archives—including making legible those histories contained in ‘non-official’ archives such as family genealogies, cemeteries, and storytellers. The appeal of this approach to cultural information is its potential to provide an image of the ‘ethnographic other’ as historically constructed as such, and not as a timeless entity. Using anthropological concepts of culture and society to organize and interpret the historical record offers the possibility of understanding historical periods and events from a new, non-authoritative perspective.

The six-hour workshop, divided into four 1.5 hour sections with a break for a provided lunch, will carry two focuses: the history of the ethnohistorical approach, and contemporary ethnohistorical methods. The first section will situate ethnohistory within historical anthropology, and explore the methods used and studies completed outside of the United States. The second section will look at ethnohistory from a sociological perspective, particularly as it pertains to popular culture and American racial formation. The third section will also concentrate on methods used in the contemporary United States, with an emphasis on critical race and feminist interventions in and through ethnohistorical methods. The final section will examine the ways in which archival data can be made to ‘speak’ in an ethnographic tone, and the ways in which archives can be questioned through ethnographic methodology.