Have the Leeds and Trinidad Carnivals become all about 'sequins and bikinis' ?
Dr Zobel Marshall, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies and Humanities at our University, posed the question during her talk: ‘It's not all sequins and bikinis. Power, performance and play in the Leeds and Trinidad Carnival’, which formed part of the Leeds Cultural Conversations (LCC) series.
Held on Wednesday 7 October, The talk explored the premise that the demise of traditional trickster characters, such as the Midnight Robber, who once exemplified many of the practices central to Caribbean carnival culture, has led to the rise of ‘carnival commercialisation’ and it merely being ‘a spectacle of female flesh for the male gaze’.
Dr Zobel Marshall’s talk also formed part of a series of events being staged by our University to mark Black History Month, she explained: “Using the sinister and captivating trickster masquerade character The Midnight Robber as a guide, my talk focused on the cultures of resistance in the Caribbean carnival and asked to what extent carnival in Trinidad and Leeds continue to provide a challenge to officialdom.
“The talk was attended by an engaged and attentive audience, including Arthur France, founder of Leeds West Indian carnival. Following the presentation, carnival practitioners, political activists, academics, costume designers, artists and other members of the public took part in a dynamic cultural conversation on cross-cultural fusion and identity and tackled issues of race, gender and the politics of the contemporary Caribbean carnival.”
The LCC series, a collaborative venture by The Centre for Culture and the Arts (CCA) at Leeds Beckett and Leeds City Council, and sponsored by Palgrave Macmillan, sees some of the Centre’s leading academics deliver lunchtime talks in some of the city’s most iconic buildings, including the Town Hall.
Dr Susan Watkins, Director of The Centre for Culture and the Arts at our University, added: “Emily’s extensive research into the tensions between power and resistance in the history of carnival made for an informative talk which reflected on the extraordinary dynamics of power, performance and play at the heart of this unique cultural phenomenon.
“The next LCC, ‘Retaking the Commons: culture, politics, and the public realm’, was planned long before the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party, but in an environment where we are arguably witnessing some challenges to the neoliberal discourse of 'public bad/private good', Dr Andrew Lawson, Reader in American Literature, and Dr Katy Shaw, Principal Lecturer in English Literature, will ask how literary and cultural texts can reframe ideas of collective agency and the common good.”
The third instalment in the series will be held on Wednesday 11 November at 12.30 in the Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall.
For more information on the series please visit www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/LCC.
The full list of talks is:
‘Retaking the Commons: culture, politics, and the public realm.’ - Dr Andrew Lawson, Reader in American Literature and Dr Katy Shaw, Principal Lecturer in English Literature. Wednesday 11 November 2015 12.30, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall.
‘Doing urban history in an urban world’ - Dr Shane Ewen, Senior Lecturer in Social and Cultural History. Wednesday 9 December 2015 12.30, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall.
‘The real Fagin: the life and crimes of William Sheen’ - Dr Heather Shore, Reader in History. Wednesday 13 January 2015 12.30, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall.
‘Pride of place: LGBTQ histories and heritage’ - Professor Alison Oram, Professor of Social and Cultural History. Wednesday 10 February 2016 12.30, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall.
‘Women, visibility and playful acts’ - Dr Liz Stirling, Dr Casey Orr, Jo Hassall, Laura Robinson. Wednesday 9 March 2016 12.30, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall.
‘Cooking without a clock: women, domesticity and timekeeping in nineteenth century Europe.’ - Dr Rachel Rich, Senior Lecturer in European History. Wednesday 13 April 2016 12.30, Denny Room, Leeds City Museum.
‘Eastern European ‘show trials’ of the 1950s: the Slansky case’ - Dr Kelly Hignett, Senior Lecturer in History. Wednesday 11 May 2016 12.30, Court Room, Leeds Town Hall.