Carnivals for élites? The cultural politics of arts festivals

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Despite their ubiquity and cultural prominence, academic study of arts festivals has been neglected. This article examines how cyclical arts festivals transform places from being everyday settings into temporary environments that contribute to the production, processing and consumption of culture, concentrated in time and place. Moreover, festivals also provide examples of how culture is contested. Support for the arts is part of a process used by élites to establish social distance between themselves and others. Festivals have traditionally been innovative and have always been controlled. In the past, artistic directors wielded this control but recent attempts by commercial interests to control festivals reflect a wider situation in which marketing agencies and managers are transforming arts and culture into arts and culture industries. Today, promoting arts festivals is related to place promotion, and this encourages 'safe' art forms. This highlights latent tensions between festival as art and economics, between culture and cultural politics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-74
Number of pages21
JournalProgress in Human Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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