Roche, M. 2011. “Festivalization, Cosmopolitanism, and European Culture…”

Roche, Maurice. 2011. “Festivalization, Cosmopolitanism, and European Culture: On the Sociocultural Significance of Mega-Events.” In Festivals and the Cultural Public Sphere, edited by Liana Georgi, Monica Sassatelli, and Gerard Delanty. New York: Routledge. Pp. 124-141.

Europe’s history of war, xenophobia, and nationalism have developed in stride with globalization, trade, cultural exchange. Despite sense of distinct nation-states, interrelation is more present with the cosmopolitanism of mega-events and festivals. Impacts of production and dissemination of identity, place – as well as the notions of interdependence and peace amongst nations. Ehrenreich 2007 discusses the “history of collective joy” of Europe, noting the history of festivals as developing from prehistoric and pre-modern times. Using the “techniques of ecstasy, these festivals included “the use of such things as rhythmic music, dancing and singing; feasting and drinking to excess; the use of masking or face decoration and costume to change appearance; playing ‘the fool’, inverting social roles and mocking hierarchy; and generally active and significantly spontaneous participation by audiences and participants en masse” (126). She mourns the “post-festive era” of the late modern times (post-WWII), with the rise of neoliberalism and individualism as a breakdown for these types of festivals (and the communities that they build). However, Roche argues, there has been a grand revitalization of these types of events – yet, within new forms.

“’Festivalization’ can be taken to refer to the role and influence of festivals on the societies that host and stage them – both direct and indirect, and in both the short and the longer term. Festivalization processes can be understood as traditions, institutions, and genres of cultural performance. These processes operate within social formations and their professional and community networks, and have both historical and contemporary aspects. They do so in relation, in particular, to collective understandings and practices of space, time and agency. That is, festivals can firstly be said to influence societies’ collective orientations towards and understandings of social space through their transient celebratory animation of particular locations and thus their influence on collective place identities. Secondly, festivals can be said to influence societies’ collective orientations towards and understandings of social time and time-consciousness through the standing and active recognition of their calendars and through the links these calendars offer with memorable and narratable pasts, with the sociocultural rhythm of life in the present, and with anticipated futures. Finally, there is the issue of agency. Of course, festivalization in modernity can be reasonably interpreted as having mainly culturally hegemonic and ideological features and impacts [Roche 2000, 2006]. However, festivals and mega-events can also be interpreted from alternative perspectives […] emphasizing their positive implications for personal and social agency […] That is, they can be said both to embody and to reanimate the social agency both of those who produce and of those who participate in them, making a sense of theatrical, dramatic, and expressive power tangibly available to their engrossed and active audiences as much as to their leading performers” (127-128).

Modern festivals’ origins in the mid-nineteenth century expositions (built as a way to demonstrate the ‘goods’ of capitalism – innovation, exchange, etc.); festivals as a way to assert cultural dramas (through sports, fandoms, etc. – ways of drawing boundaries and exacting the powers of citizenship/membership). Now, expos and mega-events offered as a draw for international tourism, a call for globalization – instead the entertainment and dissemination of technology of years prior – drawing away from the power of the exposition. How are festivals (and the dissemination of ideas, notions of exchange, cosmopolitanism impacted by the Internet and other related technologies?)


Ehrenreich, B. 2007. Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. London: Granta.

Roche, M. 2000. Mega-Events and Modernity: Olympics and Expos in the Growth of Global Culture. London: Routledge.

Roche, M. 2006. “Nationalism, Mega-Events and International Culture.” In Delanty, G. and K. Kumar (eds.) Handbook of Nations and Nationalism. London: Sage.


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