Mobile, Alabama’s Joe Cain Procession
A Confederate Memorial or The People’s Parade?
Keywords:Carnival, Mardi Gras, Mobile Alabama, Confederate Monuments, Lost Cause, Joe Cain
This article investigates the contradictions that characterize Mobile, Alabama’s Joe Cain Day celebration. We look at the official narratives that established Mobile’s Mardi Gras origin myths and the event’s tradition invention in 1967 with a People’s Parade centered around Cain’s redface character, Chief Slacabamorinico. Then we discuss the complicated and ever-evolving symbolism surrounding the character by discussing more recent iterations of this public performance. In its inception, the Joe Cain celebration was a clear example of Lost Cause nostalgia, yet it has been adopted, adapted, and embraced by historically marginalized people who use it as a way to claim their space in the festivities. Employing both historical and ethnographic research, we show that carnival can simultaneously be a space for defiance and reaffirmation of social hierarchies and exclusionary discourses. We discuss here some of the concrete material elements that lend this public performance its white supremacist subtext, but we also want to complicate the definition of “materiality” by claiming a procession as a Confederate monument/memorial.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Isabel Machado and Emily Ruth Allen
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