Carnival, that image of sensuous frivolity, is shown by Abner Cohen to be a masquerade for the dynamic relations between culture and politics. His masterful study details the transformation of a local, polyethnic London fair to a massive, exclusively West Indian carnival, known as "Europe's biggest street festival," which in 1976 occasioned a bloody confrontation between black youth and the police and which has since become a fiercely contested cultural event.
Cohen contrasts the development of the London carnival with the development of other carnivalesque movements, including the Renaissance Pleasure Faire of California. His valuable analysis of these relatively little-explored urban cultural movements advances further the theoretical formulations developed in his previous studies.
Abner Cohen is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of London. California published three of his earlier books: The Politics of Elite Culture (1981), Two-Dimensional Man (1974), and Custom and Politics in Urban Africa (1969).
"A 'good read,' and at the same time an outstanding and well-balanced theoretical contribution to current debates about the relation of art to politics."—Frederick G. Bailey, University of California, San Diego