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The World Downside Up: Mardi Gras at Carville

Marcia Gaudet
The Journal of American Folklore
Vol. 111, No. 439 (Winter, 1998), pp. 23-38
DOI: 10.2307/541318
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/541318
Page Count: 16
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The World Downside Up: Mardi Gras at Carville
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Abstract

To act carnivalesque is to be allowed to be "abnormal" for a while. Paradoxically, to celebrate Mardi Gras, like other masquerade holidays, is normative—it is not only allowable but even expected that one will participate in the seasonal customs. Thus, for people who are already stigmatized as "abnormal" in society, the masks and the occasion allow an opportunity to engage in normative behavior, to act "normal." In this article, I focus upon the Mardi Gras at the National Hansen's Disease Center in Carville, Louisiana, and argue that its potentialities are very different for those with Hansen's disease (leprosy) than for other carnival participants.

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