Poofters Taking the Piss out of Anzacs: The (Un-)Australian Wit of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.  Morton, John 2008 Anthropological Forum vol 18(3).


Find the article here.


As an annual event, Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has a key place in the Australian national calendar. Following leads from Gabrielle Carey (1995) and Fiona Nicoll (2001), this paper explores the meaning of Mardi Gras in relation to Australia’s premier ritual event, Anzac Day. It is argued that Mardi Gras and Anzac Day are formally related to an older pairing of Carnival and Easter, and are related to each other as sin is to redemption. However, I show that, because of certain (homophobic) flaws in the configuration of the Anzac legend, the comedic counterpoint of Mardi Gras can itself be elevated to the status of the sacred, giving rise to inherent instability in the symbolic economy of the Australian nation state. After considering a number of examples of Mardi Gras’s transgressive (‘Un-Australian’) humour, I conclude with a general reflection on jokes in Australian ritual politics, particularly in regard to the ‘subject positions’ of those who might inappropriately analyse these politics from a perspective that privileges essentialist notions of opposition and resistance.

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The focus this week was still on public rituals, and much of what has gone on in class has already made its way onto the blog.  We’ve got a roundup of the Palio posts and powerpoint slides with general info on public rituals.

We watched an ethnographic film on Shrovetide celebrations in the Baden region of Germany.  The Weekly Blog Ritual followed this up with a collection of videos from other regions of Germany.

Carnival was discussed:
•   It is a Christian ritual. It has its origin in the Middle Ages and is strongly connected with the Catholic church.
•    Carnival ist therefore limited to countries of predominant catholic denomination: Central and Southern Europe and Latin America.
•    Carnival is derived from Italian carne levare = farewell to meat.
•    Shrovetide is derived from to shrive = to hear the confession, to assign penance, and absolve.
•    Traditionally, Carnival is a time of liminality, for crossing the line, when men dress as women, and the poorest take over the city‘s streets, covered in glitter and gold.
•    Carnival was/is the time of masquerades, excessive eating, drinking, dancing, playing and performing, before Ash Wednesday brings it all to an end and Lent, 40 days of abstinence begins
•    Most public celebrations happen between Thursday and Tuesday, when life is lived on the streets and in pubs.

We finished up this weeky by using our general knowledge of public rituals and drawing on Carnival and the Palio as models to construct our own public ritual for New Zealand.

The powerpoint presentation below will be useful in thinking about public rituals generally, but will also be instructive for our discussions of Palio and Carnival.