Publication Date

5-2011

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Timothy Evans (Director), Dr. Ann Ferrell, Dr. Erika Brady, Dr. Michael Ann Williams

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts

Abstract

In this thesis, I am examining how a small branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Loch an Fhraoich, whose values and identity center around camaraderie and narrative and aesthetic coherence, attempts to balance these two often contradictory principles. To better illustrate the negotiations taking place, I have used ethnographic fieldwork to focus on the areas of material culture, ethno-kinetics, persona, knowledge, and events. These areas are tightly interwoven, and almost never operate independently, but the exercise of isolating them is useful in seeing the complexities of choices that members must make to navigate the social world of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The Society for Creative Anachronism is a large, international non-profit organization and is often depicted and discussed as a large homogeneous organization. Instead, in this work I have analyzed the smaller group within the larger organization. I have focused on the smaller group in order to bring to light new details of how this group and the individual members operate within a self-selected international organization in a network of personal connections. These groups attain a feeling of distinctness within this large organization by creating an identity for themselves, which expresses their values within the larger SCA framework. Sometimes these values contradict each other or subvert the larger overriding SCA ethos, and members will mediate their participation in order to avoid breaking from the SCA framework entirely while still protecting their group identity.


This can be examined in light of narrative construction and maintenance. The Society for Creative Anachronism supports an official homogenous metanarrative. It is this narrative that is most often heard and examined by outsiders. Despite the initial perceived dominance, this metanarrative acts as a frame or matrix narrative, and contained within are multiple hyponarratives and little narratives. As one allows their view to slip further towards the idio and unicultural level, these hyponarratives increase in number while decreasing in scope. They go from representing a kingdom, to principality, to a barony, to a shire, to a group of friends within that shire to an individual member.

At every level these narratives connect the individual and group to others, creating a network of relationships and shared narratives that help create a sense of unity and prevent a fracturing of voices and thus support the overriding metanarrative. In order to prevent this system from collapsing inward or fracturing apart, a certain amount of playful transgressive metalepsis and edgeplay must be allowed. The negotiation of this edgeplay is debated, and the style and amount tolerated is often a distinguishing mark between groups. Some key contestations that I have focussed on where this debate occurs include the levels and types of anachronism allowed, the types of partying and practical jokes encouraged or discouraged, gender, media influence, and the understanding of honor and chivalry.

Disciplines

Folklore | Social and Cultural Anthropology