Date: May 19-21, 2017
Venue: Leeds Beckett University
“We own something that’s worth more than oil and gold”: Transporting the Trinidad Carnival Model to Jamaica
As more carnivals across the region and in the diaspora try to gain legitimacy and attract local and foreign patrons, they have been mimicking the Trinidad Carnival model. For instance, the celebration in Jamaica has always been heavily influenced by the carnival in Trinidad. The annual carnival revelry at the University of the West Indies Mona campus was organized by the students from Trinidad and Tobago and other eastern Caribbean countries. By 1990, musician, Byron Lee and the groups that formed Bacchanal Jamaica, and who had regularly attended the Trinidad Carnival, started their own carnival in Kingston that drew on elements from the activities in Trinidad. More recently, promoters from the twin island republic have been taking advantage of the appeal of the Trinidad-style fete and hosting their own fetes in Jamaica alongside those held by Jamaican party organizers. Even so, the export involves mostly recreating the commercial aspects of the Trinidad Carnival which makes the festival in Jamaica only accessible to a few. Unlike Bakhtin’s carnivalesque, where the celebration is positioned as a momentary destabilizing of dominant norms, the import of the Trinidad model also serves to sustain social inequalities in Jamaica. And such, it operates as a performance of brown middle class values. The paper, then, relies on an ethnographic framework to examine the socio-economic opportunities and implications for the carnival culture in both countries.