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Title: The practices of carnival : community culture and place
Author: Croose, Jonathan Freeman
ISNI:       0000 0004 5354 2591
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis analyses ethnographic data gathered during participant observation within two vernacular town carnivals in East Devon and Dorset during 2012 and within the professional Cartwheelin’ and Battle for the Winds street performances which were staged as part of the Maritime Mix programme of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad at Weymouth. The thesis presents qualitative perspectives with regard to the cultural performance of carnival in the fieldwork area, in order to analyse the ‘performativity’ of carnival in these contexts: how it enacts and embodies a range of instrumentalities with regard to notions of community, culture and place. The thesis serves to unpack the ‘performance efficacy’ of carnival within the wider political and cultural landscape of the UK in the early 21st century, revealing the increasing influence of institutional policy on its aesthetics and cultural performance. By way of contrast, the thesis also asserts the value of vernacular carnivalesque street performance as a contestation of hegemonic notions of ‘art’, ‘place’ and ‘culture’. The ethnographies of both vernacular and professional carnival practice presented in the thesis show how the instrumentalities of carnival are employed as cultural performances and as symbolic constructions of place, power and policy. These ethnographies reveal the contradictory ‘efficacy’ of carnival: how it functions both as a symbolic expression of a progressive, rhizomatic sense of place and also as a normative performance of vertical symbolic power and place-identity. The thesis offers a cultural geography of carnival as praxis in the south west UK, locating it within specific geographical, historical and socio-cultural contexts which have developed since the late 19th century. The thesis also offers a productive contribution to the emerging dialogue between cultural geography and performance studies through its analysis of the performativities of participants’ affective, carnivalesque experience: an analysis which articulates how people ritualise and perform the multiple boundaries between individual and community identities through carnival. Further, the thesis considers the means by which people present and enact particular symbolic representations of place and identity through their carnival performances, both in professional and non-professional contexts. In its conclusion and recommendations, the thesis seeks to frame these ethnographies within a critique of carnival practice which is considered through the contested geographies of the ‘creative economy’. It seeks to demonstrate how culture-led processes of policy enactment are increasingly critical influences within carnival and arts development in rural and small-town contexts and within place-based strategies of public engagement. Further, the thesis seeks to consider the effects that this hegemony has on ‘vernacular’ practices of carnival. The thesis adds a further voice to those cultural geographers who warn about the diminishing public space which is now available to people for spontaneous, ‘non-productive’ carnival festivity in the context of globalised late capitalism and ‘applied’ culture. Finally, the thesis offers a proposed remedy: a re-imagination of progressive structures of public engagement through culture; structures which support ‘vernacular’ practice alongside the instrumentalities of arts-development and public policies of place, in tune with a growing alternative discourse which seeks to ‘rethink the cultural economy.
Supervisor: Thomas, Nicola; Harvey, David Sponsor: AHRC ; Dorset County Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Carnival ; Procession ; Outdoor Arts ; Olympics ; Ethnography ; Culture ; Place ; Processional Geographies ; Performance