Spaces of transgression: governance, discipline and reworking the carnivalesque

Neil Ravenscroft, Paul Gilchrist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this essay we seek to engage with the emerging research agenda related to the analysis of deviant activities performed in times and spaces conventionally associated with leisure. Using a reading of Mikhail Bakhtin’s seminal work on the governmental structures informing medieval festivals, we suggest that much leisure research has misunderstood the role of deviance in the performance of social relations. Rather than the superficial commodification arguments routinely advanced on behalf of Bakhtin, we argue that his work reveals a much deeper message about the hegemonic regulatory function performed by the licensing of deviant practices within such festivals. With reference to the contemporary example of the regulation of public sexual practices, we argue that the public legitimation (and relaxed policing) of private ‘deviance’ (performed in public places) is a cornerstone of the enduring governmental tactics used to licence illicit behaviours according to strict temporal and spatial boundaries. We conclude that Bakhtin’s work remains highly relevant to the deconstruction of contemporary social relations, but through the analysis of, for example, the ‘playful deviance’ of illicit sexual practice, rather than through simplistic comparisons of medieval and contemporary festivals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalLeisure Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • Bakhtin
  • canivalesque
  • deviance
  • liminality


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