Quotidian 2 (December 2010)Hilje van der Horst: Desire and Seduction: Multiculturalism and festivals

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This article addresses the question how ethnic identities are framed at festivals and which role consumption and commoditization play in this process. It looks at three kinds of festivals, multicultural, ethnic and neighbourhood festivals, and is based on observations at several festivals as well as interviews with organizers. The festivals are regarded as spaces of consumption. Not only is food and drink often a central part of such festivals, also the staged performances and the ethnic identities presented at the festivals should be considered consumables. It appears that ethnicity is framed in ways which are very particular, and which are seductive to the visitors of such festivals. Ethnic identities are highlighted with recognizable symbols, and less attractive aspects of culture are not included. Furthermore, through the consumption of ethnicity, visitors can even be said to enable this performance. Thus, the role of visitors and consumers at the festivals cannot be neglected in the performance of ethnicity. However, looking at the performance of ethnic identities through the lens of consumption acknowledges an active role for those who bring their ethnicity to the marketplace. Ethnic identities made tangible in objects and staged performances become objects of desire, but the people who identify with a certain ethnic identity also actively seduce the visitors.