Monday, 05 November 2007

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Halloween, bonfires and diversity Halloween last week was a disappointment for me. Having invested in the usual disgusting sweets as I thought was my duty, no-one called. Did I give the wrong stuff last year? Did I scare them with my smile? Are they getting picky? So it's bonfire night, no neighbourhood responsiblities, I can reflect on the way these occasions can get hijacked and, er, inflamed, in unpleasant ways; most depressingly, in 2003 when an effigy of a gypsy caravan was burned (see below). And it seems a good time to note down a couple of interesting articles in a detached sort of way. Unmasking racism: halloween costuming and engagement of the racial other / Jennifer C. Mueller, Danielle Dirks and Leslie Houts Picca, Qualitative sociology, published online: 11 April 2007. Abstract We explore Halloween as a uniquely constructive space for engaging racial concepts and identities, particularly through ritual costuming. Data were collected using 663 participant observation journals from college students across the U.S. During Halloween, many individuals actively engage the racial other in costuming across racial/ethnic lines. Although some recognize the significance of racial stereotyping in costuming, it is often dismissed as being part of the holiday's social context. We explore the costumes worn, as well as responses to cross-racial costuming, analyzing how “playing” with racialized concepts and making light of them in the “safe” context of Halloween allows students to trivialize and reproduce racial stereotypes while supporting the racial hierarchy. We argue that unlike traditional “rituals of rebellion,” wherein subjugated groups temporarily assume powerful roles, whites contemporarily engage Halloween as a sort of “ritual of rebellion” in response to the seemingly restrictive social context of the post-Civil Rights era, and in a way that ultimately reinforces white dominance. Burning issues: whiteness, rurality and the politics of difference / Sarah L. Holloway, Geoforum 38 (2007) 7–20. (This is a cracker, I may have refered to it before but make no apology for referring to it again). Extract from abstract This paper examines how the concepts of race, racism and rurality are deployed by different commentators as they debate the place of one specific minority ethnic group in the English countryside. The route taken into this is a consideration of print-media reporting of events in Firle, Sussex, where, in 2003, some white rural residents symbolically purged their village of Gypsy-Travellers by burning a mock caravan complete with effigies at their annual bonfire celebrations.

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