Although manifested and represented with different meanings and cultural expressions, carnivals carry the same value everywhere: a popular and autonomous event rooted in the ideas of freedom, elimination of differences and spontaneity. Today, the carnival is a global and urban phenomenon, with local features and peculiarities. It travelled the globe with the help of colonization and globalization processes and consequently blended with different cultural expressions, becoming a stage of global cultural fusion. While some scholars argue that carnival can be a place of social inversion, where norms and hierarchies are questioned, others argue that the festivities are just ‘safety valves’ granted by the elites as a tool for controlling the masses. By reflecting on these two main lines of thought, centered in the opposing ideas of carnival as a tool for transformation and carnival as a tool for maintenance, this investigation has encountered the nature of carnival in the intersection of both thoughts. Carnival is seen as a contested and conflicted space, where the social dynamics and the power structures encountered in societies are reflected and even augmented. To demonstrate this contested nature, this investigation used Recife’s and Rotterdam’s carnival as the two comparative case studies. By comparing north and south, this thesis aims to investigate what is the function of a carnival and what kind of conflicts it brings in opposing places of the global economy. Most importantly, it aimed to explore how common elements shared by both cities, such as multicultural backgrounds that created a carnival tradition, were influenced by factors that set them apart, such as the global inequalities. To understand how a carnival, rooted in the ideas of freedom and spontaneity operates in the twenty-first century, where rigid institutions like municipalities take responsibility for organizing and preserving these festivities, this thesis investigated the main social tensions that were evoked within the power dynamics of carnival. These thesis findings focused on four attributes of carnival: social cohesion, multiculturality, intangible cultural heritage and political participation.

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Maarten van Dijck
Global Markets, Local Creativities (GLOCAL)
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Isabel Cavalcanti de Albuquerque. (2021, August 24). CARNIVAL AS A CONTESTED SPACE: Social tensions at Recife’s and Rotterdam’s Carnival (2001-2020). Global Markets, Local Creativities (GLOCAL). Retrieved from