Cologne Carnival's "Alternative" Stunksitzung: Carnivalization? Meta-Carnival? Or Bakhtinian Restoration?
Year of Dissertation:
In the 1820s, Carnival in Cologne, Germany, underwent a series of reforms, ostensibly to bring the festival back to the people. Among the traditions that developed was the Sitzung, a theatrical variety-show event, with music, comic speeches and sketches, dance troupes, and various additional Carnival-related entertainments. The shows, and Carnival itself were, and largely have been since that time, mostly overseen by a Festival Committee and the official Carnival Societies it recognizes. In 1984, a group of mostly students decided to create their own version of a Sitzung, an alternative version, the Stunksitzung. From three inaugural performances, it has grown to presenting over forty performances a year to sell-out crowds of one thousand people per night and to being a popular annual television event. This dissertation considers the history of the Stunksitzung within a frame of Mikhail Bakhtin's work on Carnival. I examine over two-dozen performance pieces of the Ensemble, and compare and situate the production and its history within Cologne Carnival, in particular the broader dichotomous status of the official versus the alternative, interrogating how alternative the production is, has been, and continues to be. Ultimately, I frame the Stunksitzung within the larger context of Carnival and the particular status it holds in Cologne.