The Commune in Full Play

The Commune in Full Play: Three 1871s for the Twenty-First Century
-an essay in progress for Phantasms of the Red Republic: The Paris Commune in Popular Culture, eds. Eric D. Smith and Phillip E. Wegner (under contract with Brill; publication expected 2021).

This essay reads three contemporary mobilizations of the history and memory of the 1871 Paris Commune, its key events, actors, and images. Working through different media and cultural forms (fashion, theatre, gaming), the texts examined include: Commune de Paris a French fashion and accessories line/boutique launched in 2009; the script and staging of Paris Commune, an experimental theatre piece produced by the U.S.-based company, The Civilians in the early 2010s; and Red Carnations on a Black Grave, a tabletop role-playing game (RPG) developed by Catherine Ramen scheduled to be released in 2020. All three projects reenact the history of the Commune in various ways, riffing on its revolutionary politics and meanings, engaging diverse publics, producing and performing the Commune with different intentions and effects. Building a framework for the consideration of popular historical attempts to revive the Commune in the present, the essay thinks through notions of serious play, time travel, and political nostalgia to read and interrogate these provocative resurrections of a radical past.