ResearchWorks: Carnival Bodies and the Politics of Contagion: Shame, Absence and the Performance of Place in Crisis

  • 6pm
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Free | Online

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Speaker: Patrick Duggan (Northumbria University)

New Orleans is a city that performs its cultural identity in plural and profoundly embodied ways, not least in relation to the city’s tourist industry that is at once its (financial) life blood and a deadly (environmental) threat. COVID-19 has laid this reliance on tourism even more starkly bare and, once again, revealed the city itself as a highly contested space (highlighting issues of environmental racism, wealth and employment inequalities, the threat of climate disaster).

This paper takes as its starting point the repeated and often racialised politicisation of Mardi Gras to explore the performance and politics of tourism in relation the current pandemic. Emerging from an ongoing research project in the city (, the paper comparatively explores carnival in New Orleans in 2020 and 2021: the former used to shame the city as significantly responsible for the outbreak of Covid-19 nationally; the latter, a ‘carnival’ like no other - ‘yardi-gras’, devoid of bodies, bustle and tourists. The paper asks how politicised discourses about performing bodies, or their absence, in New Orleans intervene in or give voice to the performance of identity in relation to contexts of trauma, crisis and city resilience.

Patrick Duggan is an interdisciplinary performance studies scholar; he is Head of Theatre and Performance, and Associate Professor of Performance and Culture at Northumbria University. His research explores cultural production as a means of investigating the world, as well as object of analysis in it. Duggan’s work is particularly focused on investigating the place and geo-political function of contemporary cultural production in relation to questions of trauma, resilience and contexts of crisis. He is PI on the AHRC Covid Rapid Response Grant funded ‘Social Distancing and Reimagining City Life’, and is currently researching/writing two books with Stuart Andrews: Performance, Place and Crisis (Palgrave, for delivery 2024) and Rethinking Resilience: Performance Practices of Contemporary New Orleans (Louisiana State University Press, also 2024).