Identity and carnival in Trinidad
The thesis examines the development of ethnic and national identity in Trinidad. More specifically, it examines the tensions and dialogues between the various ethnic identities that co-exist in Trinidad and their role in the formation of the national identity as mediated through Carnival, and its embodiment of the national myth - 'all o' we is one'. Durkheim's concept of 'collective effervescence' and Bakhtin's 'dialogism' provide the two analytical poles of the argument. The first focuses attention on the representation of the social collective, whilst the second provides a way to think through the eruption of experiential heterogeneity. The central argument is that despite the high degree of ethnic diversity there is something that can be called a 'Trinidadian way of life' or 'experience', which is shared across all social identities. Thus the 'everyday' is connected with Carnival - its discursive other - as the occasion when the high encounter the low, the polite meet the vulgar, pretty mas meets dirty mas, and the different ethnicities coalesce. However, while Carnival plays a role in reducing the tensions produced by differences, it is also a celebration of the same differences that tend to undermine the sense of the collective. Carnival, then, is marked by ambivalence in that it both reinforces and subverts the existing order. On the basis of forty depth interviews and a variety of other primary sources, I explore such questions as: 'what does it mean to be 'Trinidadian"? 'Why are primordial ties still powerful in the construction of identities'? 'What part does the body play in the physical experience of identity"? And how is it that Carnival is symbolic of national unity and identity for some while for others it simply reconfirms existing structures and hierarchies, which are seen as falsifying this same unity and identity.