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C’est carnaval !

C’est carnaval !

The politics and policy of Carnival

Approches politiques du carnaval

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Published on Wednesday, October 20, 2021


The interdisciplinary research unit TRANSFO (Research Center for Social Change, université libre de Bruxelles) organizes a two-day conference that aims to shed light on the political dynamics of contemporary carnivals. The conference welcomes both junior and senior scholars, in the following disciplines: political sociology, especially in the fields of social movement study and artivism; political anthropology; festive studies; urban studies; public policy; history and social geography.



This conference aims to shed light on the political dynamics of carnivals. It takes roots in a longer tradition of interdisciplinary exchanges addressing the links between carnival and politics (Biringanine, 2010; Godet, 2020). More specifically, this conference wishes to deepen our understanding of carnival as ‘politics’ on the one hand, and as ‘policy’ on the other hand. The conference’s ambition is also to draw attention towards the interconnection between the politics and policy dimensions of carnivals, across contexts.

1. Carnival as politics

The first dimension, carnival as politics, refers to bottom-up processes through which individuals and collectivities use carnivals as modes of politicization, political expression, or political action. This dimension of carnival partly relates to the foundational work of Bakhtine (Bakhtine, 1982) and subsequent interpretations (Godet, 2020, pp. 6–9) according to which carnivals and carnavalesque constitute potential sources of, or tools for, rebellion, subversion or resistance. Hence, carnivalesque strategies would be mobilized in order to mock, defy, or contest dominant norms and power, as well as to assert a distinctive collective identity (Arnaud, 2020; Arnaud and Sala Pala, 2005; Baldini, 2016; Deharbe and Maccagnan, 2008; Mathieu and Balasinski, 2006; Sombatpoonsiri, 2016). Carnivals would also be used as a resource allowing minorities to shed light on and politicize a latent conflict (Salzbrunn, 2011; Sergidou, 2020). Yet, what specific aspects of the carnivalesque do produce mobilization and reaction? To what extent and in which circumstances do carnivals (and carnivalesque) truly lead to political changes? How much carnivals affect in the long run participants, as individuals and as collectivities?

2. Carnival as policy

The second dimension, carnival as policy, refers to top-down processes through which public (or private) authorities use carnivals as a mode of governance, with diverse objectives that can be more or less stated explicitly: controlling and containing contestation, enforcing social cohesion, building or preserving a collective memory, or promoting the city’s culture (Arnaud, 2010; Delorme, 2020; Ferdinand and Williams, 2018; Raziano, 2019; Sabev, 2003). This conception is partly entrenched in Gluckman’s (Gluckman, 1954) approach of public rituals, which may serve as a ‘safety valve’ for the social and political elites (Godet, 2020, p. 9). But what is the reality of carnivals as public policy instruments? How much elites’ discourses, public actions and their effects do corroborate or differ? What are the consequences of (different types of) carnival on a city’s development and reputation, but also on the public’s perception of (regulated) festivities?

3. Micro politics and macro policies of carnival

Ultimately, the conference aims to provide insights on the interconnection between the micro politics and macro policies of carnival. This relationship may take multiple forms (Arnaud, 2008; Chouitem, 2017; Cunegatto, 2020), such as mediation, negotiation, contention or clash. But to what extent does the nature of this interplay vary across time and space? How much does this relationship depend on the social, economic, political, or institutional contexts? How much values intervene in the definition and dynamics of this relationship? The recent withdrawal of the Aalst Carnival (Belgium) from the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO) due to antisemitism (Fournier and Giancristofaro, 2020) illustrates well some of these issues.

The conference aims to gather contributions discussing carnival as politics and/or as policy, as well as contributions addressing the articulation of both. The conference welcomes case studies as much as comparative examinations, from various disciplinary perspectives and methodological angles. The conference will give preference to empirical research and field works, although advanced conceptual and theorical papers will also be considered. Finally, this conference wishes to gather contributions that reflect as much as possible the diversity of contemporary carnivals and festive events, without any specific geographical scope.

Submission guidelines

Proposals (250 words) need to be sent to transfo@ulb.be by November 10th 2021 at the latest. Participants will be notified of their acceptance by November 20th 2021. Contributions can be submitted and presented in English or French.

Organising committee

  • Fanny Arnulf, université libre de Bruxelles
  • Caroline Close, université libre de Bruxelles
  • Manon Istasse, centre culturel Eden & université libre de Bruxelles
  • Maité Maskens, université libre de Bruxelles
  • Marco Martiniello, université de Liège
  • Elodie Verlinden, université libre de Bruxelles


  • Charleroi, Belgium (6000)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Wednesday, November 10, 2021


  • carnaval, festivité, résistance, politique publique, fête


  • Elodie Verlinden
    courriel : elodie [dot] verlinden [at] ulb [dot] be

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Maïté Maskens
    courriel : Maite [dot] Maskens [at] ulb [dot] be


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« C’est carnaval ! », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, https://doi.org/10.58079/17g5

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