Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A01. Festivals: Creative Chaos and Extraordinary Order

Festivity can bring people together in cooperation, provoke conflict, preserve tradition, and inspire innovation, often all at the same time. Festivals are extraordinary social spaces in which people are often expected to behave in ways that would be forbidden in day to day life; they are typically traditions that are also violate tradition in some way. This course will examine the enormous variety of festive behavior in which people participate around the world, including famous massive religious celebrations in South America, such as Carnival, and relatively newly invented festivals such as the Burning Man Arts festival in the dessert of Nevada and Waterfire that is celebrated in nearby Providence. We will explore what these extraordinary occasions tell us about what it is to be human in the places in which they are celebrated, and what they all might have in common in their tremendous diversity. Students will conduct field research on festivals in which they can participate, and the course will explore those less easily reached through ethnographic accounts, literature, the professor’s own research, and film.

Bruce OwensBruce Owens
Associate Professor of Anthropology, Chair of Anthropology Dept.