Carnival in Africa and Its Diaspora

  • Niyi Afolabi
Part of the African Histories and Modernities book series (AHAM)


This chapter interrogates the relationship between the rituals of Carnival, the interactive myths of celebration and renewal, and the complex dynamics of inclusive exclusion that the event represents for Afro-Brazilian marginalized populations as well as for descendants of Africans on the world stage. In theorizing and mapping how this singular event serves the dual purpose of “masking” and “negotiation of power”1 for both the oppressed and the oppressor, I examine the representation(s) of Carnival from the viewpoints of performance and cultural theory. Some of the questions raised include:
  • What are the paradigmatic discourses on Carnival in Brazil and in the African diaspora?

  • To what extent is Carnival an all-inclusive phenomenon where everyone participates without regard to social hierarchies and racial discrimination? Is it really possible to “neutralize” social hierarchies in a patriarchal space in which blackness is still the marginalized Other?

  • What are the main pretexts and realities of performing and engaging Carnival in a space that is economically and structurally controlled by hegemonic forces?

  • In laying out the main arguments for this book, what are the popular and epistemological orientations that shape Carnival as a “collective” performance in which participants can propagate their own individuality through political masking?


Racial Discrimination Cultural Agency Sacred Grove Police Brutality Music Festival 
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© Niyi Afolabi 2016

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