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CarnyLand (an ethnography) : a study of contemporary carnivals and carnival workers (carnies) in British Columbia Kirby, Elia E.

Abstract

This study is an ethnography of contemporary carnivals and carnival workers (carnies) in British Columbia, conducted over 5 years (1997 - 2002). Informing the ethnography are three key theoretical frameworks: the carnivalesque, with which I analysis the carnival events as a public celebration; nomadism, as a means to understand the carnies identity as travellers; and transgression, to determine the real and symbolic interaction between the carnies and the locals. This text has two main parts: Chapter 2 is about the organisation of the carnival as seen through the filter of its economics. I discuss the macroeconomics of the carnival organisations and how they run their businesses, their relations with outside institutions, and the relations between the companies and their employees, as well as the relations between the employees. In chapter 3,1 discuss the nature of life on the road. Here, I am principally interested in three themes that emerged from my ethnography: the themes of home, illegality and adventure, and the interplay between the three. I conclude that, although the carnival is a controversial and ambiguous lifestyle, it provides a positive influence in the carnies' lives. It is a lifestyle from which individual carnies derive selfrespect, economic independence, and personal autonomy. There is a supporting video documentary, "CarnyLand" co-directed by Elisha Burrows, which takes the view into the backlot, behind the public sphere into the private lives of the working carnies. The text and documentary were constructed so as to stand-alone.

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