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Decentring Leisure, Rethinking Leisure Theory; Chris Rojek (1995)


Associating leisure with freedom, choice and life satisfaction is easy to do, but taking a step back and reflecting on it makes us realise associating these actions is meagre. We can’t tell if we’re satisfied or not whilst we’re experiencing leisure, and our freedom and choice we have are only possible “upon place, time and, above all, the actions of others.” Leisure is similar to Utopia as being a –place where humans try desperately to land but can never quite reach. This thought of leisure being like Utopia suggests that leisure does not in fact exist and is a reason why authors have trouble when trying to define leisure. What we understand by leisure can be argued as the term is “socially conditioned” which makes the connotations of freedom and satisfaction of leisure insupportable.

The Carnivalesque

The idea of the carnival is associated mostly with the work of Bakhtin on folk humour and rituals performed in the Middle Ages. During the period of the carnival all the festivities which took place were “the central leisure event in society”. The carnivalesque refers to the spirit of the carnival which was distinct from the everyday official, serious and status dominated life during the period outside of the carnival. Bakhtin stated “carnival celebrated temporary liberation from the prevailing truth and from the established order; it marked the suspension of all hierarchal rank, privileges, norms and prohibitions.” The usual beliefs and dominated spirit was the object of comedy during the carnival. Everything which terrified the people during the period outside of the carnival, such as death and punishment, was “grotesquely caricatured”. The imagery used during the carnival candidly emphasised the body and the bodily process. Bakhtin thought the rituals and iconography symbolised the collective social body and the peoples’ ties to Mother Earth. According to Bakhtin the carnival was a utopian reaction against norms and ideology of individualism and a clear release from the hierarchal society in which the people lived in.

The carnival was repressed with the rise of the insistence that modernity should rationalise time and space. The carnival, along with fairs and other celebrations were politically seen as obstructions to the overtaking powers of the state and capitalism. The attempt to extend social control more than often had the affect of “politicizing popular culture by turning rituals into resistance”. Capitalist policies didn’t entirely eliminate popular speak of the ‘repacking’ of traditional leisure events. From the start of the 19th century popular culture became the subject of commercialization and the traditional practices of spectating activities started to require cash transactions.



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