North American larping (live-action roleplaying) is a collaborative performance that encourages critical and creative engagement with cooperative, improvisational narratives. Nevertheless, larping often relies on problematic engagements with race and racial stereotypes. Like many gaming hobbies, larp uses the idea of a “playable race”. Unlike other gaming arenas, however, larping necessitates that players physically embody a character in order to participate in the collaborative narrative: larpers embody fictional races and engage in a complex form of “race play”. Within this context, non-Indigenous players frequently appropriate Indigenous cultural practices and mobilize racist stereotypes. This paper explores this phenomenon and its ramifications. Based on seven years of ethnographic fieldwork and community participation in New England larping communities, I examine how concepts of Indigenous identity manifest in New England larp. I explore both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives in order to demonstrate (a) how fantastical play facilitates cultural appropriation and damaging “race play” and (b) how these spaces affect Indigenous players. I close with Indigenous perspectives on new possibilities for Indigenous larp projects and cultural reclamation.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited