Rethinking festivals through return journeys to Mardi Gras: unbounding, performing & embodying

Anna de Jong

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (not awarded by UHI)


Formulated through feminist geography, this thesis takes a visceral approach to unbound festival scholarship. It does so through examining return journeys to Australia’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex Pride event, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (herein, Mardi Gras). Rather than prioritise the timeframe of events, as is often evident within festival scholarship, the thesis adopts a visceral approach that demands examining the embodied, performative and processual dimensions of return journeys, as they entangle with the social and cultural dimensions of Mardi Gras. Advancing methodological discussion around online storytelling, this thesis employs a multi-method approach, termed travel ethnographies. Travel ethnographies involve social media, alongside more conventional tools such as interviews, solicited diaries and observant participation. Three lines of inquiry are extended in this thesis, through three fieldwork assemblages, to advance arguments around the ways festivals spill into, and are affected by, the everyday. First, belonging and identity for the Queensland Dykes on Bikes (an all women motorcycle chapter) are shown to coalesce through the preparation for, and experiences of, mobile bodies-on-motorcycles; suggesting belonging and identity are bound up with bodily movements that are related to, yet wider than, social powers that frame Mardi Gras. Second, the affective politics of collective travel with Goulburn Valley Pride (a regional Victorian Queer Collective), on a bus to and from Mardi Gras, troubles oppositional distinctions between politics and tourism. Third, the commodification of queer Pride is explored in, through and beyond the event of Mardi Gras by investigating the embodied encounters of a solo traveller from New Zealand; here, attention is granted to the ways meanings and experiences taking place during Mardi Gras are always bound up with broader politics and social worlds. Taken together, the three lines of inquiry presented in this thesis demonstrate the potentials of return journeys to render new understanding around the multiple and shifting meanings and roles of Pride events, and festivals more broadly, that extend beyond bounded narratives. To conclude, attention turns to Antipodean feminist geographic futures that speak to broader contemporary agendas in the discipline of geography. In so doing, specific attention is granted to possible avenues in which feminist geography may productively recognise and promote otherness, identify and decentre power, and engage beyond the boundaries of the sub-discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Wollongong
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


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