Cities, Giants and Municipal Power.


The rites described here are urban ceremonies in which central importance is assigned to a type of symbols that is characteristic of northern France, i.e. processional giant effigies. These events help to reinstate local collective entity: besides the celebrations are closely linked to municipal authority and to the elite whose relationships they recall and consolidate. In their performance, they emerge as a type of serious parody of the civil ceremonies involved in the life cycle - christenings, marriages and funerals. The importance assigned to the city hall as a republican space, one that is symbolically very marked in the consciousness of the French people should be noted in this context. This reference to the realm of vital records (birth-, marriage and death certificates), which clearly expresses the union between the celebration and the institutions, confers prime importance upon the social actors, in charge of the effigies, as they are often closely connected to the local political power. In addition, the various ritual features (delivering of speeches, signing of certificates, choosing of godparents) reveal the complex pattern of hierarchies within the municipal team.

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Gueusquin, M., (1989) “Cities, Giants and Municipal Power.”, Ethnologia Europaea 18(1), 117-128. doi:


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Marie-France Gueusquin (Centre d'Ethnologie française)



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