Thursday, 27 March 2014


“Discourse” can be narrowly defined as a conversation, or as a rule-based dialogue among parties. To

Jaworski and Pritchard (2005 p,1), discourse is 'a semiotic system': textual-linguistic, visual or any other

system of signification. Foucault (1973) saw discourse as a system of ideas or knowledge, with its own

vocabulary (such as the way academics speak to each other). This can result in the power to monopolise

communications and debate and to enforce particular points of view. In this paper, discourse is taken to

mean a structured line of reasoning or knowledge creation, including theory development and practical

applications. Previous reviews and the new annotated bibliography enable identification and description of

three major discourses within festival studies. They are closely tied to existing journals, as these tend to shape sub-fields and lines of research. No doubt there are many more specific discourses that can be

detected within these.

Discourse on the Roles, Meanings and Impacts of Festivals in Society and Culture

What becomes apparent quite quickly through any literature review entailing the word “festival”, is that festival

studies is very well established within anthropology and sociology, while festival management and festival

tourism are much more recent and relatively immature. The knowledge domains for each of the sub-fields of

event management and event tourism have, unfortunately, developed without much reference to the classical

lines of theory development and research in the social sciences and humanities.

Festivals in society and culture, pertaining to their roles, meanings and impacts, is the oldest and best

developed discourse. The literature review identified the following classical themes within this discourse (see

Figure 1, (Themes in Festival Experience and Meaning): myth, ritual and symbolism; ceremony and

celebration; spectacle; communitas; host-guest interactions (and the role of the stranger); liminality, the

carnivalesque, and festivity; authenticity and commodification; pilgrimage; and a considerable amount of

political debate over impacts and meanings. There are landmark works by Van Gennep (1909), Victor Turner

(1969, 1974, 1982, 1983 a/b, 1988), Geertz (1973), Abrahams (1982, 1987), Falassi (1987), and Manning

(1983). Numerous contemporary studies of specific cultural celebrations have been published in literature

outside events and tourism (e.g. Cavalcanti, 2001). Two recent books make explicit connections between

tourism and the cultural dimensions of festivals: Long and Robinson (2004) and Picard and Robinson (2006).

Recently, scholars within and outside the traditional disciplines have been examining festivals with regard to

an increasing variety of issues: their roles in establishing place and group identity; the social and cultural

impacts of festivals and festival tourism; creation of social and cultural capital through festival production;

International Journal of Event Management Research Volume 5, Number 1, 2010

fostering the arts and preserving traditions; and a variety of personal outcomes from participation in festivals,

including learning, acquired social and cultural capital, and healthfulness. The value and worth of festivals to

society and culture has been addressed, as well as the imputed need for festivity, but research on these

important issues has been slim. Festivals are being examined in the context of sustainability, corporate social

responsibility, and as permanent institutions. Clearly these latter issues suggest the need for pertinent festival

policy studies. Connecting this classical discourse with the ensuing structured literature review, it can be

seen that it dominates our understanding of the core phenomenon and is also highly pertinent when

considering social, cultural and personal outcomes.

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