Mardi Gras: A Gift Economy

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MEG KINNEY
Bad Babysitter

To residents of New Orleans, there is a special brand of pageantry and community surrounding the Mardi Gras ritual. At the center of it all are Parades—the heartbeat of Mardi Gras. Each Krewe (social club) puts on a huge parade sometime during Carnivale Season. They each have their own personality, costumes and “throws”. Throws can be as simple as the iconic beads we all know, or elaborate handcrafted items that are highly sought after prizes.

During parades, a strange thing happens—objects that have little commercial value become incredibly valuable, even for a few moments. People jockey for position to catch beads, toys, custom medallions, and above all the prized throws of each Krewe. There is a whole system of value attached to each parade, which the city celebrates. We will explore how the gift economy of the Mardi Gras parade unites old and young, and bridges racial boundaries in a shared ritual.

Hal Phillips and his partner Meg Kinney founded Bad Babysitter, a business ethnography firm based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Combining principles of the social sciences, documentary filmmaking, and business acumen, Bad Babysitter helps businesses and organizations grow by becoming more empathetic to the people they serve.

  1 comment for “Mardi Gras: A Gift Economy

  1. June 16, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    […] Their attention to how and where different kinds of value are created defined the field for Daiane Scaraboto and Bernardo Figueiredo, who traced the circulation of small chapels in Brazil, and for Hal Phillips and Meg Kinney’s dive into the ritual of Mardi Gras. […]

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