Staging the Past

Staging the Past

Staging the past by Maria Bucur and Nancy Wingfield is a book comprised of essays aimed at discussing the use of commemorative ceremonies, celebrations, statues and cemeteries. These manifestations of national pride were a means that the Hapsburg Monarchy used to try and create fervor for a new nationalism. These were intended to show the people that the monarchy still had value and that it was not illegitimate. Throughout the essays the authors discuss the differences of national level commemoratives vs. local level commemoratives. It seems to be a theme that the local level commemoratives proved to be better received by the people, as they bonded together communities on a local level by pointing out a common and shared past. This makes sense when you look at the idea of commemoratives as a means of creating collective memories, and in turn creating a sense of common nationality and nationalism.

The division of the book helps to emphasize the differing ways that commemoratives were played out. The first section focuses on the Hapsburgs, and how they as a monarchy, tried to create traditions to both legitimize themselves as well as legitimize their authority to rule. The second section looks at the ways that the people at a local level attempted to create and understand nationality. The last section tries to sum up the first two, while focusing on the time after the Hapsburg monarchy was no longer in control. This third section allows a comparison, which was helpful in understanding how nationalism changed and how it was formed and molded to fit whoever’s idea of nationalism was needed at the time.

One Response to “Staging the Past”

  1. Ben says:

    This point in the book concerning local grass roots celebrations vs. national top-down celebrations and the higher effectiveness of the local ones is interesting. Sociologically this can be seen in transmitting a variety of ideas or sets of ideas. For example, why were the salons of the French Revolution effective vehicles for spreading the ideas of the enlightenment? Why do mega-churches have higher retention and indoctrination rates with layman lead small groups compared to individuals who anonymously only attend top-down events centered on the main minister? And why, during times of upheaval and genocide (such as that in Rowanda) are village protection militias often those that engender the most loyalty?

    It seems that the closer some idea is to a person, the deeper it sinks in. One must identify with others who share an idea and either participate in a ritual concerning the idea or perhaps know someone who is participating.

    In the context of Staging the Past, it seems local commemoration comes closest to the individual, what is being said is right there, while the national commemoration is over there.