Behind the Bacchanal: Using Actor Network Theory to Unravel Notting Hill Carnival Politics
Authors: Ferdinand, N.
Start date: 13 February 2015
The Notting Hill Carnival has had an eventful history, in its journey from being a community festival to becoming a hall mark event. Previous researchers in tracing the history of the event have understandably shown the festival to be an incredibly contested space, suggesting that its growth has been the cause of a great deal of conflict, making the Carnival in some ways a victim of its own success. Media reports have also given the impression, at times, that the Notting Hill Carnival’s management and organisation has been a disordered, cacophony in need of containment and structure. By applying a process approach and utilising actor network theory (ANT) analysis, this paper has highlighted that out of the apparent chaos, there has been a structured progression in the festival’s development. Interviews with members of the central organising bodies were combined with archival documents to compile a retrospective case study which follows the festival from its initiation in 1964 to the contemporary period. Findings suggest that the transformation of the Notting Hill has been a process of extensive negotiation and re-negotiation of the festival’s framing, which has seen it move from being a Multi-cultural Fayre, to become a Trinidad-style and then Caribbean Carnival, then a Black Arts Festival and Sponsorship Opportunity to finally a London Carnival.