A long time ago, in a
A couple years later, I attended the Connecticut renfaire with some of my siblings. It was interesting to note the difference in how people interacted based on who was or was not in garb.
Then, I went to college. I studied sociology. And I started dragging my college friends with me to renfaires. Although a few of them needed less dragging, but more on that later.
By mid-afternoon of the first day at this latest faire, I was forming hypotheses and research ideas. I met a man who is what we in the sociology biz call a "bridge" in the social network context, meaning he was connected. The guy seemed to know just about everyone! So I made friends, and over the next year of occasional online communication, I got him to agree to being a guide of sorts for some research I began doing into the renaissance faire subculture. I was introduced to LOTS of people--booth workers, cast members, "playtrons" (meaning patrons who play along and come in character/garb).
I wrote a paper and gave a presentation about renfaires and medieval re-enactors/re-creationists for a class in Deviant Subcultures. I think by that point I was considered a junior at Shawnee State University. (I did finish that bachelor's degree in three years, so it was the year in the middle.) That was what really set me on this path. I found myself asking so many questions about renfaires, the people, the relationships, the "rules," the customs. I could spend years researching this and never run out of things to study, which is probably a good thing since it's what I'm writing my master's thesis on.
By the next year's faire season, several of my friends and I had formed our own "pirate crew" as we had seen with my afore-mentioned cultural guide. Watching the process of creating personas, getting costumes together, choosing names, and creating a collective group identity with the crew has been interesting in itself, especially when my crew teamed up with some other renfaire pirates to form an "armada" of sorts. (All in good fun, I assure you. No actually pillaging has occurred.)
In participating, while observing, I have gotten to know people and built raport that would not have been possible for a researcher walking in wearing "mundane" (non-medieval/renaissance) clothes carrying a clipboard and asking a lot of questions that lead participants to feel like they're being examined under glass and poked with a stick. But that is a tale for another day...
Disclaimer: BTW, this blog has no affiliation with the SCA or SSU (except that the latter did give me a BA in Sociology). Stuff I write here should not reflect on them, in case they decide it matters.