Changing identities through collective performance at events: the case of the Redhead Days

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This paper examines the (collective) performance of identities in an event context. During events, the participants not only engage in face-to-face performances, but also in the collective performances of crowds and audiences. This study analyses collective performance using Collins’ framework of Interaction Ritual Chains, which combines Goffman’s performance metaphor with Durkheim’s work on rituals and collective effervescence. This provides a more complete analysis of the ways identities are performed and (re)constructed during an event. This qualitative study presents the case of the Redhead Days, the world’s largest gathering of redheads. Visitor interviews and participant observation over four editions of the event show how a temporary majority of redheads is created, which greatly impacts both face-to-face and collective performance. Social practices that facilitate performance include photographing and storytelling. The data reveal that collective performance is inherently different from face-to-face performance, and that the combination of the two contributes to a change in narrative identities of the event attendees
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-584
Number of pages17
JournalLeisure Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Performance
  • Redhead Days
  • events
  • identities
  • interaction ritual
  • self-change


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