I am no longer a fan of Carnival. I had never really been one, actually – just used to "spectate". Nonetheless, I am disturbed by the high level of vulgar and promiscuous behaviour engaged in by many women around this time. Why do some women have to conduct themselves like "jaggabats" or "jammettes" at Carnival time? Behaviour like this causes me to stop and wonder, what, really, is the nature of Carnival? What is it about? Is it a "sex-fest" or a display of creativity? (excerpt) Akilah Holder when she wtote this article she took a perspective of Bakhtin. Traditional Carnival theory (Bakhtin) defines Carnival as inversion, as subversive, as the temporal displacement of hierarchy, order and everyday semblance, a “momentary degradation of values” (Bakhtin 1984:80-84. A small body of literature (Hill 1971, Lovelace 1978, Benitez-Rojo 1997, Constant-Martin 1999, Schechner 2004) presents Trinidad Carnival today as a redefinition of traditional Carnival theory, which instead of solely disrupting hierarchies in a Bakhtinian sense, reflects and preserves the values and sense of community Carnival creates across class, race and ethnicity in Trinidad. Scholar Richard Schechner’s paper, Carnival (theory), after Bakhtin is a good synopsis of why Bakhtin’s and Ms Holders notions of Carnival and the Carnivalesque don’t fit countries like Trinidad and Brazil (2004:3). What pissed me off was the moralistic, judgemental tone of Ms Holder’s article as she directed most of her disgust towards the dancing and antics of many women on the streets during Carnival time. It pissed me off because although I am certain her intentions were honourable and there is some merit to what she said, because of the ill-researched, dated arguments she made, she came off sounding like just another religious elitist charlatan of whom we already have oh so many. In fact if she washed her mouth on the thing anymore she’d make Pastor Cuffie or some of the other legal bandits and conmen with bibles completely irrelevant. (excerpt from Corey Gilkes) From the obvious point that Bakhtin’s Carnival was a “spectacular” metaphor for understanding and celebrating the novel to the contrast between a autocratic regime and 19th century Trinidad, Schechner (2004) critiques “the sometimes strange, perplexing world of the academy” for its use of Bakhtin in the analysis of new world Carnivals. Trinidad Carnival is not solely a European inspired one, but rather a “spectacle” ( MacAloon 1984, Turner 1986) translated by local circumstances and processes with influences that include the introduction of peoples and culture from many different parts of the world including various masquerade cultures of Africa. For Guy Debord “spectacle” was the public display and manifestation of a particular economic and socio-cultural formation (Debord 1967:15). He described spectacle as a form of false consciousness, an ideological smokescreen to hide the “autocratic reign of the market economy” (1988:2). His “Society of the Spectacle,” its artifacts and processes, forms and shapes, production and sales was a mask hiding violent and oppressive social control and a mechanism of the expanding capitalist ideology remaking the world. In this sense Trinidad Carnival is a way to shine light on social change within Trinidad society (Constant-Martin 1999). C. L. R. James – the profound analyst of mechanisms of solidarity (1947, 1963, 1989) – used the sport of cricket as a similar shining light. He saw cricket as “a reservoir of shared cultural knowledge across class, race and colonialism” (1963) and used the sport in the West Indies to examine the relationship between structure and everyday social change. He described cricket eloquently as a sporting spectacle and analysed the sport as a...
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