For the subjects of Momo, tradition is law: government and truth in the organization of Olinda’s Carnival

Abstract The Carnival of Olinda is one of the most important events in the city’s cultural life and is one of the largest carnivals in Brazil. As in several carnivals in Brazil, its configuration results from an identity project implemented in the late 1970s, breaking with the model from Recife and resulting in an “authentic” street Carnival. Since then, this new model is defended as a tradition, and its permanence and transformations are inscribed in a complex web of power and resistance, involving from the participants of the revelry to the decisive instances of the celebration. Thus, we investigate how tradition is articulated as an exercise of power in the Carnival of Olinda. To do so, we performed a Foucauldian discourse analysis of the journalistic coverage of four Carnivals of Olinda (1986, 1996, 2006 and 2016). Our findings reveal this tradition as a regime of truth, permeated by tensions involving processes of legitimacy, normalization and resistance.