Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A19. Festivals: Creative Chaos and Extraordinary Order

Festivity can bring people together in cooperation, provoke conflict, preserve tradition, and inspire innovation, often simultaneously. Festivals are commonly filled with extraordinary behavior that is at the same time traditional, and provide socially sanctioned spaces in which what is otherwise forbidden is often encouraged. 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 less well known festivities 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 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 ethnography, literature, the professor’s own research, and film.

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