Caribbean Carnival Complex – Epistemic Unruliness 25

In this special installment of Epistemic Unruliness, James brings you a student-assembled episode produced by some the intrepid undergraduates who took his spring 2019 Swarthmore College course, “When the Saints go Marching in! Festivals and Parades of Latin America.” This course and the podcasts presented here focused on the Caribbean Carnival Complex — a heuristic that has emerged within Caribbean cultural studies that takes the Carnival performance season common across the region as a metonymic expression of a fractalized Caribbean identity, history, culture, and cosmology.

Drawing on complexity studies, chaos theory, the Blackened Afro-Caribbean phenomenology and kinaesthetics of Frantz Fanon, as well as participant-observation at Philadelphia’s El Carnaval de Puebla, this episode plunges listeners into the “Caribbean of the senses” (Benítez-Rojo 1992) through an exploration of the embodied, choreographic archives carnavaleros use to generate and transmit forms of knowing (Roach 1996). This performance modality, called “playing Mas” in the Anglo-Caribbean (Browne 2018), centers the affective immediacy but rhetorical indirection of communicative forms like masking, veiling, costuming and other dramaturgical aspects of Caribbean mytho-poesis. The Caribbean Carnival Complex entails a fugitive praxis that emerges from the fragments of liberatory-emancipatory potential made sensible and perceptible by mass street rituals.

A special thank you to the students who worked on the following segments:

  • “Culture Chat” – Liv Elmore, Alejandra King, Jayna Jones, Megan Ruoff
  • “Caribbean Curries” – Arpita Joyce and Catherine Williams
  • “Sounds of El Carnaval de Puebla en Filadelfia” – Edna Olvera and Miryam Ramírez (click here for a .pdf of their listening notes)

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Syllabus for “When the Saints go Marching in! Festivals and Parades of Latin America.”

The Traditional Mas Archive, an online resource for festival drama in the Caribbean region.

Blue Devils of Paramin. Photo courtesy of Matthew Fung, Traditional Mas Archive

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