What sails through the air? What makes people shout and pounce to the ground or reach to the skies? What is free for those who wake up early and wait patiently? It’s parade trinkets/throws/swag/loot/handouts/kamelle, of course. Things we don’t know we want, till that moment when a parade goes by. Maybe it ends up in your mouth, in a bag, a drawer, or eventually the trash, it doesn’t matter, these random parade gifts are eagerly received by both children and adults.
I have so many questions about these objects thrown and handed out during a parade:
1. Is it a DIY or a commercially manufactured thing? edible, collectable, educational, throw-away-able…
2. What are catching techniques/strategies for bystanders? (hand, umbrella, hat, bag…)
3. Are there no-no rules about how and what parade participants can give out to bystanders? (e.g., no throwing, no old candy, no pointy things, no glass, no marshmallows, no environmentally unfriendly, etc.)
4. Is there a particular name for these parade things thrown/given in different places? (Some web sites lists Pride Parades - swag; Mardi Gras New Orleans parades - throws; German Karneval/Carnival Parades - kamelle (sweets/candies/things thrown); parade trinkets, parade loot, parade junk, parade tchotchkes, parade paraphernalia, etc.
And because I’m academically inclined, I'm going deeper down the research hole with my whimsical parade thoughts of dancing candies, coconuts, and tortillas to yes…. MATERIAL CULTURE land. Right into the swirl of academic research land, filling my eyes with online readings from ebrary/ebook central, jstor articles, internet blog sites, and my own panoply of real paper books. I have gone to the other side. Which is fine, I’m only saying that the academic mind likes to dig and dig and dig, down through the layers of words, and it takes time. These parade objects are now multifaceted, complex objects with some kind of embedded significance. Possibly reflecting local / global interests, particular aesthetics, group identity, a socio-economic situation, politics, nationality, religious beliefs, popular culture...
Plus, knowing that material culture always was a little bugger to me is not helping. Should I open the folklore door, or maybe the art history door? So many doors. Possibly the archeology, cultural studies, religious studies, material studies, museum studies, visual arts, performance studies doors. Should I should consider how national differences shape the doors in other ways? Oh so many academic areas studying material culture, which to choose?
More questions coming to mind…
1. Do I want to examine the material culture as it relates to issues of tradition, artistry, marketing appeal, psychology, agency, history, gender representation, religiosity?
2. Am I simply fetishizing the object?
3. Or is this parade object/form/item something to study that reveals how a community gifts?
4. Could it reflect local values and special interests?
5. How could it demonstrate community affiliation/sense of belonging?
6. With each homemade item, does the maker feel pride or even regret because it will be given away.
7. What kind of compensation might be expected? Is the object even a commodity for exchange?
8. Is the DIY parade throw a reflection of a society responding to a growing technological and commercial world? Or is it a merging of tradition, popular culture, and technological interests all embedded in a tangible fan-based creation?
Burt Feintuch, Eight Words for the Study of Expressive Culture 2003
Robert A. Georges and Michael Owen Jones, Folkloristics: An Introduction 1995
Henry Glassie, Material Culture 1999
Richard Grassby, "Material Culture and Cultural History,” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 35, no. 4 (2005): 591-603.
Orvar Löfgren, “Material Culture” in A Companion to Folklore eds. Regina F. Bendix and Galit Hasan-Rokem 2012
Daniel Miller, Material Cultures : Why Some Things Matter 1997
David Morgan, Religion and Material Culture: The Matter of Belief 2010
Robert E. Walls, “Folklife and Material Culture” in The Emergence of Folklore in Everyday Life: A Fieldguide and Sourcebook 1990