History as Ancestor Worship

As the number of approaches to history expand, conceptions of the past from the right-wing fringes are increasingly finding their way into mainstream, public historical culture. This project investigates how ethnicist and racist ancestor worship in popular and sub-cultural historical practices can carry far-right ideas into the heart of society.

Re-enactor with the rune tattoo  ‘warrior of truth’ at the Slavic and Viking Festival in Wolin 2017. Photo: Jakub T. Jankiewicz, © Wikimedia Commons

History as Ancestor Workshop: Ethnicism and Racism in Popular and Sub-Cultural Historical Practices Between Classical Studies and Identity Politics

Barbarian festivals, Viking shows, Slavic villages—early history and the Middle Ages are at a premium. Yet these popular historical formats often transmit a very narrow conception of past societies and lead to mythically charged genealogical thinking and unsophisticated identification with early »peoples«, conceived in an essentialist way. Through racist exaggerations, such conceptions of history become ripe for integration into far-right memorial practices at the fringes and outside of academic cultures of knowledge. The believability and political impact they can acquire in the public sphere, in competition with academic positions, throw up questions of diverging claims to truth, epistemic authorities and practices of evidence creation.

This project examines ethnicist conceptions of history by investigating cases from historical re-enactments, neo-pagan movements and musical sub-cultures. It focuses on Slavic constructions of ancestors and Aryans in Poland and Russia, supplemented by comparative views of other regions in eastern Europe.

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