Mittwoch, 09. Mrz 2016, 17:00 - 18:30 iCal

Wednesday Seminar - Alessandro Testa

European Carnivals as objects of anthropological investigation. Theories, methods, and case studies.

Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie
Universitätsstraße 7, NIG 4. Stock, HS C, 1010 Wien


In the last one hundred years or so, the scholarly interest in European Carnivals has been characterized by an extraordinary crescendo. Few other phenomena of the once called “popular culture” (or “Folklore”, or “Volkskunde”) have enjoyed comparable attention, also after the methodological and theoretical turns that have marked the second half of the twentieth century in the fields of social and historical studies– namely nouvelle histoire, micro-history, interpretative and critical anthropology, cultural history, and eventually, postmodernism. These shifts have in fact considerably changed the approach to the study of Carnivals and other similar cultural facts. Together with theories and methods, themes and topics have in fact changed accordingly, too.

Recent historical and anthropological research on Carnivals has focused on a rather varied set of issues, often in an interdisciplinary fashion, for instance the “carnivalesque”, the body and the performative dimension, power relationships, social transformations, religious practices, and political claims or tensions expressed through – or triggered by – such festivals.

Several case studies taken from the scientific literature and especially from the speaker’s own research experiences and publications will be presented and discussed. These case studies will be useful for exemplifying his arguments and will provide them with empirical evidence, but also they will make it clear how Carnivals can be, for the anthropologist, a valuable window from which to observe and understand the social, cultural, political, economic, and religious dynamics of our fast-changing and complex late-modern times.

Notions of “tradition”, “festival”, and “heritage”, so often associated with Carnivals, will not be treated as a given but problematized and discussed critically. The notion of “Europe”, notably, will be the object of a particular focus, since Carnival festivities have sometimes been used as a tool for fostering (and investigating) processes of construction of European narratives and identities.

A last but not less important remark: the speaker’s research field is the historical anthropology of Europe practiced using methodological and interpretative tools borrowed from both historiographic and ethnographic methods. Therefore, the entire lecture will put an emphasis on the suitability of studying these and similar kinds of cultural and historical phenomena from a diachronic perspective.

Alessandro Testa is a Lise Meitner postdoc fellow at the Department of European Ethnology, University of Vienna

Zur Webseite der Veranstaltung


Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie


Mag. Marie-Therese Hartwig
Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie