Comptes rendusReviews

Gerald W. Creed. Masquerade and Postsocialism: Ritual and Cultural Dispossession in Bulgaria.  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011. Pp. xi +254, ISBN: 978-0-253-22261-9.)[Notice]

  • Nicholas Hartmann

…plus d’informations

  • Nicholas Hartmann
    Memorial University of Newfoundland

A nation subject to much change following the end of communism in 1989, Bulgaria is a complex nation, with multiple ethnicities and a vast cultural heritage that has attracted international attention. Its push to join the European Union (which it successfully did, in 2007) and become part of contemporary Western society brings to mind many concerns about Bulgarian society, including concerns for minority protection, economic stability and cultural sustainability. According to the author, anthropologist Gerald W. Creed, such modern concerns and issues can be better understood through what is, in fact, a premodern cultural practice: mumming. According to Creed, it was commonly believed that such practices would lose their relevance to many people with the rise of contemporary postsocialist Bulgarian society. Yet, as his research shows, mumming is not only a growing practice in many communities, but says quite a lot about how postsocialist societies have simultaneously blossomed and floundered in various ways. A well-organized structure, combined with fairly accessible terminology and explanations of theoretical concepts surrounding postsocialism, allows for Creed’s arguments to be understood by more than an anthropologist audience. Discussing aspects of political science, history, ethnic studies and folklore, Masquerade and Postsocialism’s first major advantage is its interdisciplinary approach to examining postsocialist folk tradition. This is best seen in the introduction’s examination of both postsocialist theory and ritual, the latter of which is said to have risen in value due to the devaluing of many of the practices that maintained communities during the era of communism. Comparing Bulgarian mumming practices with that of the practices examined by scholars such as Halpert and Glassie, the common thought of examining mumming as a locus for social drama and exchange is not only utilized as a framework for later arguments, but also placed into a historical context that demonstrates the perception of mumming as a subversive activity that was forbidden by multiple rulers. The first chapter, “A Mumming Season,” is best seen as a descriptive section, focusing largely on the practices that take place within community mumming and placing them into a cyclical context that demonstrates the connection of mumming to specific times of the year. In addition, the chapter also serves as a place for Creed to differentiate between the terms “ritual” and “festival,” as well as the difference in mumming practice that comes with each term. Seeing the ritual as a village-based, communal rite “with supernatural overtones” and “rich in innovation and spontaneity,” Creed compares the festival – a large-group setting in which traditional rituals were not necessarily fulfilled and often grouped together with other practices during the socialist era as a promoter of nationalism – as being far removed from the tradition, yet nonetheless notable for what it says about Bulgarian history and society. Gender issues are discussed in the second chapter, “Gender and Sexuality,” and a specific emphasis on the connection between mumming and masculinity takes precedence within this part of Creed’s book. The role of mumming as a site of male bonding within Bulgarian communities is something that is heavily emphasized due to the connection between mumming and passages to manhood; this is examined within the context of socialist life in Bulgaria, which, along with postsocialism, has been interpreted as an emasculating force in local life. Creed’s explanation that socialism was responsible for challenging the political authority of men, and that postsocialism added an economic factor to that, is well explained and provides a better context for the motivations behind the rise of mumming in recent years, as well as the changes that have taken place in regards to the role of women in mumming …