The study of festivals has long been relegated to the margins of historical inquiry. In fact, theoretical structures erected by sociologists and anthropologists, which in the past tended to be universalistic and chronologically static, have kept historians from considering festivals as outward expressions of ongoing social negotiations. The authors of the articles in this volume move away from universalistic analyses and toward discussions of particulars through their careful examinations of context, change, and the multiple and criss-crossed identities and meanings that existed within these popular cultural expressions. The play on words in the title changes the word festa (festival) to fresta, which can mean either a narrow opening through which light and air can pass, or an interstice. Both meanings of fresta highlight the ways in which the contributors have historicized and problematized festivals in late colonial and republican Brazil.

The collection’s narrowly focused geographical scope makes only a...

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