The Clash of Communities at the Seneca Women's Peace Encampment
When thousands of women gathered in 1983 to protest the stockpiling of nuclear weapons at a rural upstate New York military depot, the area was shaken by their actions. What so disturbed residents that they organized counterdemonstrations, wrote hundreds of letters to local newspapers, verbally and physically harassed the protestors, and nearly rioted to stop one of the protest marches? Louise Krasniewicz reconstructs the drama surrounding the Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice in Seneca County, New York, analyzing it as a clash both between and within communities. She shows how debates about gender and authority—including questions of morality, patriotism, women’s roles, and sexuality—came to overshadow arguments about the risks of living in a nuclear world. Vivid ethnography and vibrant social history, this work will engage readers interested in American culture, women’s studies, peace studies, and cultural anthropology.
Analyzing a local conflict that made national news, anthropologist Krasniewicz has constructed an intriguing if jargon-heavy book that explores differing visions of America, community, political protest and sexual identity. In 1983, thousands of women gathered at an upstate New York encampment to protest the nearby stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Many local residents resented the protesters, and one confrontation, at a bridge in the town of Waterloo, turned violent. Krasniewicz, slightly sympathetic to the protesters but retaining a spirit of inquiry, videotaped them in 1983 and later interviewed a range of participants in the conflict; from this collage of sources she then re-creates the incident through a fictionalized narrative account and a dramatic reenactment. She shows how the nuclear issue was overshadowed by the townspeople's concerns about the encampment's condoning of lesbianism, its refusal to fly the American flag on the Fourth of July and its antipatriarchal protests. She notes schisms within the encampment over issues like feminism and how both protesters and residents manipulated for their own ends the myth that the Seneca County locals were members of an idyllic rural community. Photos not seen by PW.