Accepted paper:

Imitative representations of the cultures of otherness among the Cologne Tribes


Anja Dreschke (University of Duesseldorf)

Paper short abstract:

My paper deals with the imitation practices of the Cologne Tribes (Koelner Staemme) a particular kind of hobbyist clubs which originate from the carnival and whose members re-enact the history and lifestyle of the Huns and Mongolians.

Paper long abstract:

My paper will deal with the imitation practices of the Cologne Tribes (Koelner Staemme). These are particular societies whose origins lie in the traditions of the Cologne carnival where members dress up as various kinds of historic or 'exotic' cultures such as Native American Indians, Africans, Vikings, Romans and, in particular, Huns and Mongolians. Their tradition dates back to the 19th century when German colonial politics situated itself within the carnival parades.

Since the 1950s, the Cologne Tribes have extended their activities to the re-enactment of the (historic) lifestyles of the imitated cultures in summer during which they renounce all forms of modern and creature comforts. Highlights are opulently staged role playing games - at once a mixture of factual and theatrical representation.

Today several, antagonistic practices of imitation can be found among the Cologne Tribes. This issue is greatly debated within the groups since all claim to be 'authenitic'. To some the costumes and performances must be fanciful and inventive in order to accurately represent the 'spirit' of the Cologne carnival tradition. Others rigorously study historical and ethnographic literature to render a precise reconstruction of the material culture. And another group travels to the home countries of the imitated cultures to obtain 'authentic' costumes, tents and weapons which are considered 'inauthentic' by their 'opponents' because of having been mass-produced.

With this paper I would like to address questions around the complexity of how authenticity and tradition is constructed/invented in this complex yet highly artificial cultural practice of the Cologne Tribes.

panel P06
Appropriating authenticity: anthropological and archaeological enquiries on a shared theme