Ritualized Inebriation, Violence, and Social Control in Cajun Mardi Gras
Abstract

The rural Mardi Gras run is a rite of reversal in which a rowdy band of costumed merrymakers visits homes and businesses to collect" charity " for a communal supper. Unorthodox conduct, misbehavior, and violence in this context are often directly linked to intoxication. However, such drunkenness is a form of ritualized inebriation that develops through drinking, the sense of freedom afforded by participants' anonymity, and their assuming expected roles for the deep play associated with Mardi Gras. Violence and misconduct are largely attributable to overzealous play, loss of temper, personal conflicts, and spectators' negative reactions to Mardi Gras antics. Although seemingly chaotic, Mardi Gras follows an idealized script and it has mechanisms of control which mediate between acceptable drinking behavior and play and actual intoxication and misbehavior. There is, however, a negotiable gray area within this spectrum that reflects variation within the Cajun cultural ethos especially pertaining to drinking behavior.


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