This book is fascinating but somewhat over-written. Cantwell started out his research by working on a history of the Festival of American Folklife. When this project was curtailed due to foreseen circumstances, he reworked his research into a review and critique of the festival. The book examines the festival in terms of ways in which participants, performers, producers, audience members, and others in the cast of characters act out their various roles on the mall in Washington DC. Cantwell focuses his study on the idea that the festival provides a way to break stereotypes about other people. He develops his argument to emphasize that stereotyping can involve a range of factors including arbitration of meanings as well as enagements with "the other." Throughout the book, he makes deep inquiries into the salience of stereotyping within American history and culture. The book is best when Cantwell writes interpretive descriptions of what he observed at the festival and what he has researched in archives and libraries. At times, however, the bulky theoretical apparatus and the over-blown jargon detracts from the rich, sensitive insights that the writer makes about American (folk)life. Despite the opaqueness of many sections, this book is an amazing study of festivity in American life.