Accepted Paper:

Remaking the city through carnival in New Orleans: new wave krewes and the urban imaginary  


Martha Radice (Dalhousie University )

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in New Orleans among the ‘new wave’ of carnival ‘krewes’ (parading social clubs), this paper asks what urban symbols, stories, and commentaries circulate in parade floats and costumes, and what claims of belonging are staked through parade routes.

Paper long abstract:

New Orleans is a city made and remade every year through its carnival rituals, which take place between the Feast of Kings and Mardi Gras. Carnival in New Orleans is reflexive and self-referential: many floats, themes and costumes offer commentaries on urban affairs; many integrate references to other parades. While some New Orleans carnival traditions and krewes (social clubs that put on parades) have attracted much scholarly attention, the newer 'alternative' walking krewes, which began to appear on the scene about 30 years ago, are less well studied. These krewes hark back to the beginning of Mardi Gras parades in their small scale and handmadeness, if not in their politics. This paper asks, what symbols and stories circulate in the new-wave krewes' parades? How do they articulate belonging to the city or other scales of place (neighborhoods, Louisiana, the nation)? Moreover, while the bigger, mainstream float krewes' parade routes have been converging, new-wave krewes walk along narrower streets in different neighbourhoods. What stories are told and what urban stakes are claimed via parade routes? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in New Orleans at carnival in 2016 and 2017, this paper contributes to the longstanding concern of urban anthropologists to understand how people make their cities in the ways they imagine and re-present them, as well as the ways they inhabit them.

Panel WIM-WHF05
Making and remaking the city / Faire et refaire la ville