Occupy Wall Street: Carnival Against Capital? Carnivalesque as Protest Sensibility

While some commentators and journalists have dismissed Occupy Wall Street as carnival, lawmakers and police officers did not miss the point. They reached back to a mid-nineteenth century ban on masking to arrest occupiers wearing as little as a folded bandana on the forehead, leaving little doubt about their fear of Carnival as a potent form of political protest. New York Times journalist Ginia Bellafante initially expressed skepticism about “air[ing] societal grievance as carnival,” but just a few days later she warned against “criminalizing costume,” thus changing her condescension to caution as she confirmed the police’s point: masking can be dangerous, Carnival is serious business.

(…) However, the carnivalesque—as a medium of emancipation and a catalyst for civil disobedience—is alive and well, and these contemporary carnivals have retained their rebellious potential.

(…)But it was French situationist Raoul Vaneigem, in his book The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967)9, who fueled the May 1968 student movement with what could be called Carnival liberation theory. Presciently, Vaneigem wrote that “a strike for higher wages or a rowdy demonstration can awaken the carnival spirit,” and “revolutionary moments are carnivals in which the individual life celebrates its unification with a regenerated society.”

via Occupy Wall Street: Carnival Against Capital? Carnivalesque as Protest Sensibility | Claire Tancons | e-flux.