Re-articulating tradition, translating place : collective memories of Carnival in Leeds and Bristol
This thesis offers an ethnographic perspective on `African-Caribbean' Carnivals in Leeds (Chapeltown) and Bristol (St. Paul's), based on an integration of in-depth interviews, focus groups, archival analysis and participatory research. It demonstrates how globalized diasporic meanings are localized in and through the specificities of `place'. Rather than employing an exclusively textual method of deconstruction, which has dominated much of the academic work on Carnival, this research draws on participatory experience in social spaces such as mas camps, Carnival costume-making classes and singing groups to explore the practices through which Carnival is reconstituted. The thesis shows how these practices involve performances of different and contested collective memories, where individual participants react to and recreate these `unified' senses of tradition in very different ways (ranging from those who insist on a `Carnival tradition' based on walking mas and soca/calypso music, to those who celebrate a `mas by other means' through the rhythms of jungle and hip hop and `costumes' of branded sportswear and puffa jackets). Music and mas provide key examples of the emergence and re-articulation of complex and contested identities. Though hybrid in form and apparently `progressive' in sentiment, such forms and their related `new ethnicities' are shown to involve exclusions as well as inclusions, as they are patterned by the continued salience of `racialized difference'. The thesis therefore raises questions about how collective memories are actively reconstructed through their relations with the multiple spatialities of a `sense of place', and how racisms persist in influencing the meanings of `multicultural' events such as Carnival.