Identity and Carnival in Trinidad

Hingwan, Kathianne. 2002. Identity and Carnival in Trinidad. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

SOC_Hingwan2002.pdf - Submitted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (19MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

The thesis examines the development of ethnic and national identity in Trinidad.
More specifically, it examines the tensions and dialogues between the various
ethnic identities that co-exist in Trinidad and their role in the formation of the
national identity as mediated through Carnival, and its embodiment of the national
myth - 'all o' we is one'. Durkheim's concept of 'collective effervescence' and
Bakhtin's 'dialogism' provide the two analytical poles of the argument. The first
focuses attention on the representation of the social collective, whilst the second
provides a way to think through the eruption of experiential heterogeneity. The
central argument is that despite the high degree of ethnic diversity there is
something that can be called a 'Trinidadian way of life' or 'experience', which is
shared across all social identities. Thus the 'everyday' is connected with Carnival -
its discursive other - as the occasion when the high encounter the low, the polite
meet the vulgar, pretty mas meets dirty mas, and the different ethnicities coalesce.
However, while Carnival plays a role in reducing the tensions produced by
differences, it is also a celebration of the same differences that tend to undermine
the sense of the collective. Carnival, then, is marked by ambivalence in that it both
reinforces and subverts the existing order. On the basis of forty depth interviews
and a variety of other primary sources, I explore such questions as: 'what does it
mean to be 'Trinidadian"? 'Why are primordial ties still powerful in the
construction of identities'? 'What part does the body play in the physical
experience of identity"? And how is it that Carnival is symbolic of national unity
and identity for some while for others it simply reconfirms existing structures and
hierarchies, which are seen as falsifying this same unity and identity.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Additional Information:

PhD awarded 2003

Departments, Centres and Research Units:




Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 May 2015 08:11

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 13:50


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)