A theory of Halloween

From Giorgio Agamben, “State of Exception,” translated by Kevin Attell, (U Chicago Press, 2005), pp. 71-72:

Folklorists and anthropologists have long been familiar with those periodic feasts (such as the Anthesteria and Saturnalia of the classical world and the charivari and Carnival of the medieval and modern world) that are characterized by unbridled license and the suspension and overturning of normal legal and social hierarchies … Scholars have always had difficulty explaining these sudden anomic explosions within well-ordered societies and, above all, why they would be tolerated by both the religious and civil authorities. * * * The same can be said for the acts of harassment committed during masked feasts and children’s begging rituals in which children punished whoever denied their obligations to give a gift with acts of violence that Halloween only distantly recalls.

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