Nice Carnival: an anthropology of institutions, tourism, and know-how
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: As a festival recreated in its modern form in 1873, the Nice Carnival has contributed to shaping the image of the city and of the French Riviera. While many carnivals and fairs in southeastern France have gradually lost success by becoming second-rate spring festivities, the carnival has remained a highlight in Nice: it is the event for which the town invests the most. In the city, the carnival takes place for a fortnight during the school holidays, and it has kept its role as a winter celebration. To explain these characteristics the author seeks to demonstrate the importance of the public and tourist policies that shape the way this carnival is put together, both as a festive ritual and a show. This emblematic carnival is promoted as a tradition and is seen as an economic stimulation process which is put forward through a marketing approach based on a context in which European cities are defined around central significant events. Designed as a leisure and family entertainment event, the Nice Carnival is also promoted as an international show, giving the city the image of a global carnival city at the same level as Venice and Rio. In Nice, the carnival is a lively show with paid admission, complete with grandstands and full of characters with caricatured features. Satire and irony are well organized – the floats and figurines in the procession are chosen by the city council after an invitation to tender. Every year, the city also selects a theme for the carnival. This institutionalization can also be witnessed in how the floats and the various parade figurines are built by experts, gathered together in family businesses. As a matter of fact, in Nice, the carnival is a matter of both professions and know-how. This article tends to show an original approach to the carnival compared with what is found in the traditional anthropological literature -in Nice, the carnival is not a transgressive ritual, a moment for excess, symbolizing inversion and disorder, but rather an official, institutional festival organized by the local powers.
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