Carnival and Culture

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Sex, Symbol, and Status in Spain

David D. Gilmore

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Each year in the weeks preceding the deprivations of Lent, the Andalusian region of southern Spain erupts into madcap depravity, during a February carnival of riotous celebration. Carnival features subversive songs, burlesques and skits, transvestite parades, and public persecution of communal offenders, along with mournful elegies and heartfelt panegyrics. In this lively book, anthropologist David D. Gilmore explores the meanings of Andalusian carnival, focusing particular attention on the songs, or coplas. He offers translations of many of these carnival productions and mines the rich vein of oral literature for a new understanding of the ways in which the Andalusian people interpret and negotiate their world.
Not only does carnival provide many insights into ritual behavior and folk art in Spain but, Gilmore shows, the festival also offers similar insights into rituals of revelry and disinhibition elsewhere, whether mumming, Mardi Gras, Fasching, or Walpurgisnacht. In a fresh perspective on carnival, he reveals that in Spain the lower classes mix abuse of elites with a surprising degree of respect and even veneration. Gilmore concludes that Andalusian carnival is less about revolution or politics per se than about the inescapable ambivalence of all human feeling.

David D. Gilmore is professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is the author of Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity and Aggression and Community: Paradoxes of Andalusian Culture, both published by Yale University Press.

“Gilmore’s superb study achieves universal relevance precisely through its particularity—a goal often sought after but seldom achieved by anthropologists.”—Timothy Mitchell, author of Flamenco Deep Song



"[Gilmore’s] firsthand experiences are especially illuminating. . . . This is an exceptionally rich work, wholly accessible to nonspecialists. All levels."—Choice

“A superbly written book and . . . an interdisciplinary tome as well. . . . . Gilmore has written an appealing book that should attract career academics across disciplines, advanced graduate students, and the educated general reader. . . . I found it to be a continuously engaging and entertaining read and recommend it highly to all interested in the how and why behind our cultural rituals and the behaviors deriving from them. This book should remain a reference point in the literature on carnival for a long time to come.”—David Ortiz Jr., Left History


“Gilmore’s important contribution to the field consists of his emphasis on the paradoxes and strange co-existences that guide carnival in Andalusia. . . . The study comprises fourteen sections and enjoys a thoughtful meeting of theory and detailed empirical data. Lively examples and intelligent analysis are given of the numerous songs and rituals described to the reader.”—Religious Studies Review

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine

ISBN: 9780300209051
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
256 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
12 b/w illus.
Manhood in the Making

Cultural Concepts of Masculinity

David D. Gilmore

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