From Radical to Routine: Burning Man and the Transformation of a Countercultural Movement

I’ve invested more of myself into this project than I ever imagined.

I believe what I have produced is important, and I know it is of interest.

If you are inspired to express gratitude for my work in a commentary or monetary form, please do!

 

The following is the first introductory chapter of my Masters of Cultural Sustainability Thesis, presented to Goucher College in January 2016. Subsequent chapters will be published to this site each week.

 

First, I must extend my deepest thanks to my thesis committee, chaired by Robert Baron and attended by Brian Doherty and Rory Turner, for their tireless encouragement and patience throughout this project.

Thank you to Benjamin Wachs for his conscientious peer reviews and ceaseless support, inspiration and championing.

Gratitude to Chicken John Rinaldi for causing this mess, and to James Cross for his creative fieldwork support and faithful friendship.

Thank you to Olivier Bonin, Chris Cohen, Erik Davis, Simon of The Playa, Brian Doherty, Colin Fahrion, Andie Grace, Sarah Harbin, Shaye Harty, John Law, Candace Locklear, Jessica McCaffrey, Jamie McIver, Nick Martin, Carmen Mauk, Oly Nomaddicted, Celanie Polanick, Tom Price, Chicken John Rinaldi, Stuart Schuffman and Anneke Swineheart for generously giving their time and stories in the form of interviews to form this work.

Thank you to Lane Burk, Chad “Wiz” Harris, Valerie Leavy, Zoli Lundy, Sky Oestricher, John Rinaldi, Ian Priddle and Glenn Schmidt, who all gave me shelter and space to do this work.

I must thank Robert Baron, Tiffany Espinoza, Roxanne Kymaani, Jon Lohman, Lisa Rathje, Amy Skillman and Rory Turner, my MACS program instructors, who each provided intrinsic inspiration and confidence in me to produce this work.

And thank you to my brother, Hamish Newton, for his constant support, encouragement, understanding and love throughout this writing process.

Here we go…

 

From Radical to Routine: Burning Man and The transformation of a countercultural movement – Introduction

Burning Man is a hyper-demonstration of the contemporary cultural questioning, cultural creation and cultural evolution that can be seen to be occurring in western culture. From 2011 to 2015, I have been a participant-observer within the culture of Burning Man, and in this time the Burning Man event, community and organization has attracted exponentially more participants and media coverage, concerns regarding the enculturation of new participants, and criticisms of the social experiment.

Burning Man can be liminal space, a “time and place of withdrawal from normal modes of social action,” with regard to dominant mainstream culture, and as a carnivalesque environment, it “can be seen as potentially a period of scrutinization of the central values and axioms of the culture in which it occurs.” [1] By consciously creating a massive communal and shared liminal and luminoid space, Burning Man can be an opportunity for humanity to experience transformational ‘evolution’. These lived lessons of possibility can then affect the boundaries of reality and possibility for the individuals who experience them, as well as wider dominant culture itself, as participants directly experience the dance of creativity, carnivalesque negation and subjective realities.

Cultures cycle through stages of emergence, incorporation, dominance and residualization. Burning Man grew out of the incessant cycling of the counter culture of absurdism, social questioning and avant-garde movements (such as Dadaism, the Situationists, The Suicide Club and The Cacophony Society), which places Burning Man within the trajectory of a recurring and ongoing onslaught of emerging social definitions. However, as Burning Man succumbs to mainstream society’s demands for structure, and therefore incorporation, in order to sustain itself, the potency of its (r)evolutionary potential may be being sacrificed, or at the very least, become appropriate to question.

Dick Hebdige states that, “The moment when dominant society begins to recognize a subculture is the moment that the resistant power of the subculture begins to die.”[2] To avoid a disappointingly dull death by dilution, I believe that participants of this creative subculture have a responsibility to reinvent the experiment, by continuing to be subversive – pushing the boundaries of reality and possibility past the point of comfort and demonstrating to the mainstream masses that reality is subjective and more fun from the driver’s seat. Otherwise, the once radical experiment of Burning Man risks becoming a “misplaced attempt to merely rearrange the elements of the status quo rather than to radically alter it in a direction more in keeping with both survival and human dignity,” as anarchism philosopher Dennis Fox puts it.[3]

Is Burning Man maintaining legitimacy and authenticity, with its steroidal growth and incorporation into mainstream Western culture being simply testimony to this alternative paradigm’s increasing relevance to our social evolution, or is the rapidly expanding community an indicator that the experiment has succumbed to the powers of conformity and popularity the community purports to be averse to?

Since I have found so much personal inspiration, identity and community amidst this culture, and I am a committed Cultural Sustainability proponent, it has become of great import to me to ask: Has the event run the gamut of the cultural cycle, lost its appetite for criticizing the status quo, and become part of the dominant narrative? Or could this evolution of the countercultural movement be the hyper-colored and televised broadcast of the revolution we have been waiting for?

Cultural Sustainability is an emergent intellectual space that spans a potentially deeply reflexive practice of folklore, anthropology and social activism. These questions are well suited to form the foundation for a Cultural Sustainability enquiry.

–     –     –     –      –

People have been asking me where I am for my entire life. I am biracial, my surname is difficult for many to pronounce, I choose to live in Australia, I speak with an American accent and I have moved 30 times in as many years. I am often asked where I’m “from” and endure constant references to my supposed and assumed “home”. My wide and frequent movements give a lot of people a lot of reasons to ask me these questions, both necessitating the conversation and making it difficult to resolve.

“I’m going to Burning Man too,” I heard myself say. The continuous self-satisfied and somewhat smug self-descriptions of my Catchment Management course colleague were getting to me. It was January 2011 and we were in a group of variously-aged post-graduate students throwing oranges into creeks in the high country of Victoria, Australia – it was all fabulously ridiculous. In my mind I thought, “Yes, ok, we get it – you’re cool and you’re on the very edge of it all, because you’re ‘going to Burning Man this year,’” while I internally scoffed at my classmate. And then something in me snapped – together or apart, the interpretation is open – and I was surprised to hear the proclamation of inclusion and participation made in my own voice: I was going to Burning Man.

Four months earlier, I had decided to quit my job and walk away from my bourgeoning career when I caught myself using the little clock in the corner of the computer screen to calculate how much money I had made that day so far. I was spending more and more time researching and sharing stories of evidence of a shift from a financial to a social economy from the American Midwest in the wake of 2008’s Global Financial Crisis. Albeit borne of necessity, I found (and still find) this movement intensely inspiring and magnetically attractive, yet the motivation for revolutionary social constructs was seemingly impossible to translate to the comfortably complacent Australian society I was increasingly frustrated to be amidst.

Partially to be one of the cool kids, and partially to just do something beyond the pale, I decided to go to Burning Man. Little did I know, how entirely cliché this was.

Two months after that summer’s day in the Australian High Country, I left Melbourne and headed for Chicago, where I set up my home base for my explorations of the American Midwest and Burning Man.

My first interaction with Burning Man or the Burning Man community was in June 2011. It was the anonymous greeting I received upon arriving at the Great Lakes Regional Burning Man event, a camping weekend in Northwest Michigan. I was greeted with an incredibly generous and genuine heartfelt hug and what I would come to know as the Burning Man community’s traditional proclamation of, “Welcome home.”

As previously described, my nomadic existence makes “home” a particularly charged notion that is difficult for me to feel or define. But this stranger, whom I would never see again, held me emphatically saying, “Welcome home,” with sincere intent, honesty and love. This was an immediately liminal space that dissolved my understandings of both anonymity and intimacy and opened me up for entirely new definitions of these concepts. It was at that moment that I formed a deep sense of connection and belonging to the people and temporary place of this society I had unwittingly chosen to become a part of. This moment marked my entrance into the world of Burning Man and transformed my sense of self, society and home. [4]

After eight months in the Midwest and my first trip to Burning Man, I returned to Geelong, Australia and quickly reconnected with the love I share with the people and land of Australia. Looking out over the Geelong waterfront one night, I was surprised to recognize the nighttime scene of Burning Man in the watery reflections of the regional Australian city’s lights and its ever-present oil refinery flame. I realized the pure potentiality of the playa is everywhere, and the sense of empowered possibility that I discovered at Burning Man, was not in the dust of the desert, but within me.

Since I became involved with the event and culture in 2011, increasing mass media coverage, social networking and a growing common cultural shift has attracted a huge influx of attention and demand to attend Burning Man. Simultaneously, concerns regarding the enculturation of new participants and criticisms of the experiment have intensified. This dramatic growth of demand for the event and community, the subsequent debate and discussion around the inclusion of new members, and the definition/defense of Burning Man culture for new and old community members alike has been my research focus throughout my Cultural Sustainability career.

 1.1    What is Burning Man?

Burning Man is an expression of a New Social Movement[5] that is born of the philosophical lineage of the Cacophony Society, The Suicide Club, Dadaism and the Situationists. Though classified as an art event, the week-long gathering of now roughly 70,000 people is not a celebration of quality, but of capacity; the capacity to create, act and transform. The culture of Burning Man is an emergent dynamic and heterogeneous force that values radical expression, creation and civic participation and provides an alternative social and organizational structure that challenges mainstream, dogmatic and hierarchical social structures and concepts. The ideals, or principles, of the Burning Man event, culture and organizing body, and the resulting reality of compromises in their enactments, is the subject of this work.

In 1986, Larry Harvey led a handful of friends to gather on a San Francisco beach and burn an effigy that Jerry James built. In 1990, 89 people staged the event in the Black Rock Desert and the event steadily grew each year until it sold out (63,000 tickets) for the first time in 2011. Though the permitted event population increases slightly each year, all tickets on public sale have been purchased nearly instantly every year since. As the event has grown, demand for the experience has diversified and a regional network was launched in 2000. Now, nearly 100 communities in over 20 countries gather around Burning Man events that range from potlucks to week-long campouts happening throughout the year and around the world. In order to help maintain a sense of commonality, the descriptive, rather than prescriptive, Ten Principles were created in 2004. They include Radical Self Reliance, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leave No Trace, Decommodification, Gifting, Radical Self-Expression, Participation, Inclusion and Immediacy.[6]

Today, Burning Man can be said to refer to three entities; a community of motivated creatives, an organizational body and the annual week-long desert art event that culminates in the burning of a large effigy and temple. All three are rapidly growing and present their participants with Burning Man’s Ten Principles (or social ideals held in common) in order to create the liminal space that is ripe for individual and social transformation that is inherent to the Burning Man experience. As organizational researcher Katherine Chen says, “Each year, Burning Man builds and dismantles a weeklong city of over 70,000 persons in the Nevada Black Rock Desert. Known for its artistic self-expression and community, Burning Man attracts aficionados of various affinities, including Nevada locals, artists, anarchists, punk rockers, ravers, drag queens, Silicon Valley engineers and academics”. [7]

Once activated, the Burning Man event site becomes Black Rock City, Nevada’s third-largest city – for one week each year. Besides personal provisions, people are expected to bring offerings to share with one another and co-create the experience and the city. Within hours of gates opening, the city is filled with tens of thousands of people and hundreds of art projects, themed camps, and vehicles that have been modified to look like dragons, a fire spewing octopus, a 4 –story toilet, mobile bleacher stand, giant fish of all varieties, cupcakes, yachts, magic carpets and tropical islands, many with fire, amazing lighting displays and awesome sound systems, most with platforms seething with dancers and hitchhikers. It’s like ‘Mad Max’ meets ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ meets ‘The Ten Commandments’. The difference between Burning Man and a transformational psychedelic experience is: it is real, it is actually happening, and yes, we see it too.

The playa, the name for the area of the Black Rock Desert where Black Rock City is staged, is an ancient lake bed that is made up of alkaline dust, the remnants of the petrified bones of a previous aquatic ecosystem. There are no endemic species now. Of anything. Life is no longer supported here, and that is kind of the point – to survive and thrive, creating amazing examples of human capability and celebration beyond the perceived boundaries of reality and possibility. Temperatures range from below freezing to well over 100F, and extreme wind and dust storms are to be expected. As the largest ‘Leave No Trace’ event in the world, participants pack in and pack out everything they need to survive, thrive and look fabulous doing it; there is no water or garbage service provided and in order to secure each year’s event permit, the temporary city of over 5 square miles must not leave more than a shoebox of debris behind.

The Burning Man organization provides roughly $1.2 million in arts grants, portable toilets, the Man (a 40-ft effigy of no stated meaning that is ceremoniously burned on the Saturday night of the event), Centre Camp (a public square of sorts) and a street grid etched into the playa dust to set the scene.[8] The rest of the onslaught of experience is offered and shared by you and your neighbors. Yes, it can be crazy and overwhelming.

In the living gallery that Burning Man becomes, the idea is that artists are expressing who they are, while their work invites everyone else to express who they are too – in that way, every art piece is a collaborative work that evokes and performs the natural expression of collective identity. The entire festival is a collaborative expression of collective identity, filled with art pieces that elicit participation and the expression of community’s unmediated autobiography as expressed in the content of the event.

Through the cultural norm of “Gifting” Burning Man provides “the capacity to remove oneself from our contemporary culture of commodity,”[9] allowing individuals to reflexively gain perspective and challenge mainstream notions of how we can relate to one another. With traditional forms of exchange such as money and barter removed from the event, cultural capital, the exchange medium of value at Burning Man, is attained through participation.[10] Participation is what separates Burning Man from other festivals.

“We aren’t throwing the party, they’re throwing the party,” says Hippie Tim, a Burning Man community leader and artist from New Zealand, “We’re just organizing the happening,” he continues.[11] Other events may have hot lineups and headlinersthat attract ticket sales and interest, but at Burning Man, the attendees are the lineup and they are encouraged to bring what they would like to see or do themselves. “There is no performances per se, people are not going there to necessarily be entertained. You’re going there for a community experience, where if anyone does put on anything for entertainment, they’re doing it for free and for the love of it,” says Mark Stirling, KiwiBurn (Burning Man’s New Zealand Regional event) initiator.[12]

Burning Man paradoxically evades attempts to clearly define what the community it emerges from is, or what it in fact, the event means; keeping in character with the enigmatic and irreverent culture it celebrates. “There lurks a higher and more important injunction: to keep the event free from the prison of interpretation and explanation, from the insidious net of Meaning. This refusal is prophylactic. By setting our bullshit detectors on high alert, Burners ward off pretension, self-consciousness, and all of the pre-packaged “experiences” that have come to define late capitalist subjectivity. On the playa, we are united in our evasion of significance,” says Erik Davis, author, scholar and long-time Burning Man participant.[13]

McIver quotes Bakhtin saying, “At carnival the people ‘have no sanctimonious regard for anyone. They are the hosts and are only hosts for there are no guests, no spectators, only participants,’[14] which echoes Hippie Tim’s statement that one cannot attend KiwiBurn, but one can be a part of it.

As Kozinets says, “Giving begets giving, social distance is temporarily bridged, and a temporary form of caring, sharing community is built that is viewed by participants as existing at a distance from the market,”[15] according to Kozinets, and this is the foundation for a new approach of how to conceptualize trust, mutuality, and reciprocity with others. Burning Man staff member, artist, community leader, long-time participant and devotee, Steven Raspa describes Burning Man: “[In Black Rock City] you have the most fascinating, marvelous, thoughtful, creative people on the planet. And the people that are coming to Burning Man are thought leaders who I have faith in that can help us get out of the holes that humanity is digging for itself…When they’re hearts and minds are open, you can cut right to the chase about where people are in their lives, what’s important to them, what the big ideas are, there’s no small talk necessary and people will speak honestly, sincerely and authentically.”[16] Raspa’s comments bring to life Kozinets’ postulation that a social economy celebrates self-expression because it is devoted to acts of giving.[17] “Participating in the creation of an entire city devoted to what we want to do, rather than what we have to do to make money, has the tendency to invite self-reflection… Who am I? What do I really want to be doing? If people can create a twelve-ton sculpture of a bird’s nest made entirely out of plumbing pipe, what are the limits on my own creativity?” asks Huffington Post columnist Jay Michaelson.[18] Burning Man’s direct liminal experience brings the philosophical tradition of existential questioning to life; “Once you are free,” said Baudrillard, “you are forced to ask who you are.”[19]

Burning Man is much more than a conventional festival, it is a fascinating and rich place to question and pursue the relationship between self-threatening, evolving and emerging culture and the dominant culture. This space does not just have the potential to offer freedom from conventional life, it also self-referentially demands that the very experience of escaping the confines of mainstream reality not provide answers to an unsatisfying system, but prove that there is much more to be questioned.

“Caveat Magister” (a pseudonym used by prominent Burning Man blogger Benjamin Wachs), states that it is common to find a process of action followed by subjective explanation expressed in Burning Man culture. And my Cultural Sustainability efforts, including this thesis, are just this; direct experience and action followed by positioning and incorporating the subjective instrument of my positionality into an artwork of cultural analysis.

According to Caveat, “The way most of us encountered Burning Man and decided to participate, [was] we came because we heard people were doing amazing shit: and when we saw it we thought ‘I could do amazing shit too,’ and then we changed our lives.”[20] Therefore, a member of the Burning Man community occupies a space of transformation that invites, but does not impose, anything. “We stop acting as agents of social control and instead become agents of possibility: we create possibilities that society does not normally allow, and then we participate in them – and open them up for others to participate in too,” says Caveat. [21] “To Burn is to act as an agent of possibility: creating a space where something amazing can happen, letting anyone join, and then cleaning up after it when it’s done.”[22]

The necessity to destroy previous constraining concepts of capacity is essential to human cultural and social evolution. “What makes Burning Man such a great place to take risks is that everyone is doing it – which doesn’t make it safe at all [someone’s radical self-expression may hit you where it hurts], but which does make it easier. It’s not “safe” to take risks, it’s “easy” to take risks. We’ve taken your risks and lubricated them,” says Caveat, demonstrating how the event and culture is a catalyst, a concentrated and accelerated expression of social evolution.[23]

This rings true for my own personal story of Burning Man.

In 2011 I experienced both a regional Burning Man event (Lakes of Fire, Michigan) and I went to Burning Man. In 2012, I was accepted into Goucher College’s Master of Arts in Cultural Sustainability (MACS) program, successfully applied for a grant from my local government and started work on creating FIGMENT Geelong, a Burning Man-inspired interactive arts festival free-for-all, for which I created my first physical art installation. I do not doubt that my experiences of life beyond the pale among the Burning Man community inspired this development in my artistic production capabilities. And my struggle to reconcile this new world of possibility and the familiarity and structure of dominant society inspired my attempt to legitimize my exploration within the MACS program.

 

1.1    Purpose of the Work

In artistic productions we may catch glimpses of that unused evolutionary potential in mankind which has not yet been externalized and fixed in structure. – Victor Turner [24]

The aim of this work is to:

  1. Discuss three critical cultural pivot points in Burning Man’s history and inspire a radically honest and self-reflective social conversation within the Burning Man organization and community that questions the event’s sustainability, the culture’s purpose and the organization’s mission by.

Burning Man was born of a culture of creative social destruction that used dominant social structures as fodder for their own funeral pyres. Burning Man has been called a permission engine, and it can be this, but as the survivalist elements of the exercise evolve into standard market demand and supply structures, it is also increasingly easy for it to just be a really great party. My hope is that those involved with the Burning Man organization, event and community rediscover their self-penned permission slips to experiment, challenge the status quo, reclaim authority, damn the man, kill the Buddha, burn the Man and fuck shit up.

  1. Challenge the field of Cultural Sustainability with the postulation that ‘sustainability’ (by definition the continuation of the cultural status quo), is in itself, a demonstration of the sanitization and incorporation of the destabilizing ideas and activist roots of folklore into the established order of academic cultural concerns.

I aim to challenge the Cultural Sustainability practice to question the pursuit of ‘sustainability’ and consider if this is also an expression of Fox’s “misplaced attempt to merely rearrange the elements of the status quo rather than to radically alter it in a direction more in keeping with both survival and human dignity,” which is what I believe to be the particular opportunity of our field.[25] The field of Cultural Sustainability is heavily influenced by the field of folklore, which has both activist and conservative expressions. Considering folklore as an activist pursuit, Debra Kodish asserts that “fundamental principles and assumptions need to be questioned.”[26] Additionally, Clifford offers that tradition is “less about preservations than about transformative practice and the selective symbolization of continuity.”[27]

These notions force me to ask if by practicing cultural ‘sustainability’ and seeking to preserve traditions we are in fact engendering the established order’s appropriation of emerging cultures’ destabilizing ideas, therefore allowing the superficial elements of the potentially revolutionary effort to rejoin mainstream society as Guy Debord’s “new flavors to old dominant ideas”?[28]

I ask if cultural “(r)evolution” or some other as yet unnamed theoretical framework (as is seemingly being demanded by the New Social Movements Burning Man is related to) is a more appropriate pursuit.

 

1.2    Thesis overview

Things change. Culture is emergent, multiple, hybridized. – Rory Turner[29]

The culture we live is threatened, criticized and counter-exemplified by the culture we create. – Roy Wagner[30]

 

The field of Cultural Sustainability is an emerging pursuit that is borne of the well-established anthropological and folklore social sciences. Cultural Sustainability is an evolution of these disciplines that asks its practitioners to include, rather than ignore, their subjective experiences of, and influences on, their communities of study and their cultural work. Cultural Sustainability is a practice that not only documents moments in cultural histories, but seeks to empower culture bearers to express, share and actively evolve their cultures through the current social and physical environmental destabilization.

Though many in this field practice Cultural Sustainability as a form of protection against the loss of tradition due to various threats (e.g. politics, environmental changes, diaspora or competing cultural influences) in my consideration of the Burning Man community, I examine how a culture that is rooted in disruption and liminality has evolved to become more routine as it grows in popularity. Wagner posits that, “if creativity and invention emerge as the salient qualities of culture, then it is to these that our focus must now shift,” [31] suggesting that ‘sustainability’ and the repetition of symbolic traditions may not be the most deserving of our academic attentions, but the emerging and innovative expressions of humanity may be of the most interest.

This project follows four overlapping and interrelated trajectories:

  • my own story as a participant observer within the Burning Man community 2011-2015,
  • the Burning Man event and community 1986-2015,
  • the countercultural zeitgeist of absurdity, avant-garde thinking and artistic action (of which Burning Man was spawned), and
  • that of the field of Cultural Sustainability.

In order to understand Burning Man, brief background discussion on previously emerging avant-garde movements will be presented, as well as postulation of what may be next for this line of inspired and creative cultural questioning, disquiet and discontent.

 

Considering Burning Man

Utilizing four years of field notes, personal reflections, extensive personal interviews and literature reviews, I present a discussion centered upon three cultural pivot points and instances of the Burning Man organization’s leadership invoking a practice of Cultural Sustainability, and defining the course of the cultures’ evolution by its directive actions.

  1. Burning Man: From Chaos to Community

The introduction of regulations and controls as a result of the fatal chaos and danger at Burning Man in 1996 fundamentally changed the nature of the event and its leadership. The formation of a network of regional Burning Man events in 2000 cemented Burning Man’s growth beyond the week in the Nevada desert, and the creation of the descriptive and guiding Ten Principles attempted to codify the culture in 2004.

  1. Burning Man: From Transgressive to Traditionalized

In 2007, the Man, the effigy placed at the center of the Burning Man event, was set alight earlier than planned for by Paul Addis. Some call Addis an arsonist (he was convicted of this as a felony charge), while others call him a renegade artist or ‘poetic terrorist’ who acted in the true spirit of the event. Nevertheless, the Burning Man organization’s response to Addis’ rebellious act directed the event’s trajectory away from an environment that encouraged transgression and towards traditionalization. 

  1. Burning Man: Sill Subversive or Simply Sold Out?

In 2011, tickets for the Burning Man event sold out for the first time and have continued to sell out faster and faster since. The Burning Man organization’s response to this new scarcity was to institute a hugely unpopular lottery system for tickets for the 2012 event. The intrusion of scarcity into the experience of Burning Man, is just one example of an element of dominant capitalist society finding its way into the social experiment; proving that the petri dish is not secure. In 2014, the organization faced community scrutiny as it came to light that some Burning Man camps (one run by a Burning Man board member) were themselves commodified spaces within the event, with waged staff and paying guests (rather than participants). This suggested that scarcity, poor leadership and lack of cultural awareness may be attracting opportunistic capitalists and market mavens and diluting Burning Man to become just a great party for those who can afford it.

 

Burning Man is an active experiment in the conscious and purposeful creation of culture. It is an inherently curious, adventurous and explorative exercise, however these moments demonstrate a standardization of the Burning Man event. The decisions made by the Burning Man organization in these directive moments have each been purported to be in the interest of sustaining the event amidst growing attention and scrutiny from the regulatory forces of mainstream society. And these directive steps have made Burning Man today a hybrid of what Burning Man once was, and the wider dominant cultural framework that Burning Man’s carnivalesque nature necessarily refers to and critiques.

Since the pivotal year of 1996, the sustainability of this culture has been consciously and strategically planned for by those central to the event’s annual happening. The Burning Man organization’s actions following the Paul Addis’ “early burn arson performance”[32] in 2007 testified to the presence and protection of the event’s traditions. And the way the organization seemingly attempted to abdicate their new found responsibility for managing access to the event, allowing ‘survival of the richest’ (creating ‘pre-sale’ tickets for $800 when normal ticket prices were $390) to allocate access since the event sold-out in 2012, calls into question the event and community’s growing similarity to market-driven dominant culture. Through these shifts, it is clear that the leadership of Burning Man has been practicing Cultural Sustainability, as it has maintained a group identity through changing circumstances. However, the question is whether or not sustainability is possible or preferable at this stage.

I ask if this is simply the imminent and expected cultural “change” [33] that Rory Turner refers to, and that Cultural Sustainability practitioners and Burning Man culture bearers should expect? Or have these modifications compromised the fundamental core of this culture so deeply that it is disengaged from its avant-garde, chaotic and subversive roots, rendering its revolutionary potential obsolete? What is Burning Man’s role in, and relationship with, mainstream culture today? Is sustainability possible for this culture?

 

Considering Cultural Sustainability

Burning Man does not stand alone as a shining example of an alternative cultural story, but as a very noisy and bright example of an expression of an idea. It may even be a new post-industrialist, post-capitalist, post-post-modern social ecology – one that is defined by complementarianism rather than competition, sharing rather than scarcity, direct knowing via exploratory experience rather than study from a distance, and an ambition to keep playing rather than to win.

Superficial elements of the avant-garde and countercultural subsets of society are being increasingly integrated into the mainstream while environmental, social and political attacks threaten the foundations of the powers that be. We are witnessing a redefinition and revaluing of culture, and as researchers we have the unique opportunity to be a part of this instant anthropology. As curious, motivated, self-aware and self-defined ‘students of culture’, Cultural Sustainability practitioners are not only acutely tuned to witness this profound shift, but occupying a space of responsibility to add direction and illumination of these cultural movements’ breakthrough moments.

Reconsidering the realities that postmodernism have offered for our mortal ennui and the limitations of the secular dogma of ‘survival of the fiercest’, I ask if ‘sustainability’ is the best term, or goal, for our field’s pursuit? (This is especially true when applying Cultural Sustainability work to emergent culture.) Or if the concept of cultural evolution and a re-imagining of terms and models would better suit the cultural reality of the ever-emerging zeitgeist.

 

1.3    Methodology

For this inquiry, research findings are made up of various photo and video media and information pertaining to, and collected from, the Burning Man event founders, specifically identified Burning Man cultural members and critics, as well as those who offer expert critiques and commentary on characteristics of emergent culture and its relationship with dominant culture.

As self-analysis, self-expression and conscious culture creation are common elements of Burning Man culture, I do not feel that any cultural mores or expectations of insider behavior were threatened by conducting this research as a participant-observer. My role as a member of this community has always been clearly defined as being led by my research aims and the intent to create work that will be shared and published.

Procedures and Materials

In order to respect the common Burning Man cultural norms of ‘ask first’ and ‘protect the community’, as well as adhering to the strict ethical codes of ethnographic fieldwork, I requested participant consent to record any and all media for this project and clearly detail the level of identification of those who participate, or agree to have their image or voice recorded. IRB approval for this work has been secured (see Appendix III).

Field notes were taken as preparation for each interview and to record impressions and reflections post-interview or focussed cultural observation task. Recorded interviews were transcribed and incorporated into field notes. Photographs and videos of interview participants and public behaviours of groups and/or individuals with the intent for use in research presentations/writing were taken throughout the course of study.

Audio recordings, still and video camera and field journals were used to conduct participant-observation, personal interviews, field notes and sound, video and audio recordings of:

  • Burning Man 2011-2014,
  • KiwiBurn 2013 (Burning Man New Zealand Regional Event),
  • Burning Seed 2012 and 2013 (Australian Burning Man Regional Event),
  • July 2013 “Night at Burning Man” event, San Francisco, CA,
  • 2014 San Francisco Decompression,
  • October 2014 Pearlington, Mississippi field visit,
  • San Francisco Santacon 2015, and
  • personal interviews with Burning Man event organizers, event attendees and community members 2012 – 2015.

Interview Protocol

In the process of arranging for and conducting interviews, the purpose for this project and the fact that it would be published was made clear to all participants. Consent for recording participants’ views, voice and image and the level of identification of the participant with their view, voice or image was secured by audio recording and/or written agreement as appropriate. Interview subjects were invited to participate of their own free will, and compensation did not exceed a coffee or meal. Copies of the recorded material from each participant will be provided upon request. Interviews were conducted formally and informally.

Interview Participants

Olivier Bonin

Chris Cohen

Erik Davis

Simon of The Playa

Brian Doherty

Colin Fahrion

Andie Grace

Sarah Harbin

Shaye Harty

John Law

Candace Locklear

Jessica McCaffrey

Jamie McIver

Nick Martin

Carmen Mauk

Oly Nomaddicted

Celanie Polanick

Tom Price

Chicken John Rinaldi

Stuart Schuffman

Anneke Swineheart

 

Interview Questions

The semi-structured interviews evolved from my observations and included open-ended sets of focused questions. Interview questions were based on the subject’s views and ideas about Burning Man and emergent culture. The questions in both formal and informal interviews evolved through time and were modified to suit each research setting and interview participant.

An indicative question set is as follows:

  • What is the nature of your involvement with Burning Man?
  • What role does Burning Man play in your life?
  • How has your involvement with Burning Man affected your life?
  • Tell me about Burning Man 1996
  • Tell me about Burning Man 2007, specifically the early burning of the man
  • What do you think of Paul Addis’ actions?
  • What do you think of the Burning Man organization’s response to Paul Addis’ actions?
  • What do you think about the Burning Man ticket situation?
  • What do you think about how the ticket situation has been/is being handled by the Burning Man organization?
  • Do you think the culture of Black Rock City has changed/is changing? How? Why?
  • Are you planning on going to Burning Man again? Why, why not?

 

Limits of Research

Limitations of this research include a lack of direct and official participation from representatives of the Burning Man organization and I would like to have more video and audio that reflects research participants’ tone, hesitation and emotions (e.g. excitement, nervousness, confidence, etc.) in order to give the narrative more nuance and integrity.

Approach as a Researcher

The dilemma of going home, the place that anthropologists are always leaving from rather than going to…
– Ruth Behar [1]

I initially sought to use this exercise and my experiences of the past four years’ study and participant observation to simply establish Burning Man as an emergent culture, more than just a party event or a flash in the pan phenomenon alternative to mainstream society. I believed that if it was seen as a culture, passionate participants may be armed with the perspective necessary to practice cultural sustainability and guard it from incorporation.[2] However, as my own experience within the culture of Burning Man expanded, it became clear that this perspective was unnecessarily short-sighted and more than a little naive. And so, with this work finally completed, I seek to provide a documented form of subjective anthropology informed by participant observation as “the most necessary form of witnessing left to us,” which Behar calls “a key form of approaching and transforming reality.”[3]

According to Victor Turner, “Anthropology has historically developed as a discipline concerned with other peoples’ realities – the more different from our own, the better. It has been less interested, and less successful, in dealing with the ways its own reality – its activities, values and ideas – is affected by the contemporary world of which it is part.”[4] Rory Turner defines Cultural Sustainability: “We are talking about a term, a label, for a relationally mediated emergent conceptualization of something… the thing that we are making is always going to be framed in terms of our own world.”[5] Echoing Wagner’s statement that, “The study of culture is in fact our culture… [which] re-creates us through our efforts,” [6] as I explored the culture of Burning Man in various iterations, events, communities, and roles around the world for the past 4 years, I have been forced to see myself and the cultures of Burning Man participants, organizers and wider mainstream society all as both the familiar and the strange.

Therefore, I relate to a lot of what Ruth Behar presents in The Vulnerable Observer, and in particular, the following quotation, which demonstrates how becoming a part of the Burning Man community through my role as a researcher both demanded and protected me from intense personal reflections relating to my own identity, values, and beliefs.

Yet because there is no clear and easy route by which to confront the self who observes, most professional observers develop defenses, mainly, ‘methods,’ that ‘reduce anxiety and enable us to function efficiently.’ Even saying, ‘I am an anthropologist, this is field work,’ is a classic form of the use of a method to drain anxiety from situations in which we feel complicitous with structures of power, or helpless to release another from suffering, or at a loss as to whether to act or observe.[7]

I found field notes to be very seriously challenging on this subject. I misread and poorly planned for what proved to be a surprisingly high level of self-scrutiny and reflection that was demanded by working with a community so close to my own identity and personal psychological growth pursuits. Behar states that, “In anthropology, everything depends on the emotional and intellectual baggage the anthropologist takes on the voyage,” and this project forced me to unpack and question the contents of my cases.[8] My reflections on this community of interest and fieldwork often turned intensely introspective, questioning and undermining the bases of many of my core assumptions and beliefs, and seeing them as projections of my own psyche. This was at times, honestly, paralyzing. I realized I am frequently acting in the role of the observer in everyday life and came to question if the practice of my natural strengths for objective observation – academically (and optimistically) labelled my ethnography and cultural documentation skills –  actually threatens my ability to personally connect meaningfully with a group and shared identity. These deep connections between my “personal experience and the subject under study” demanded “a keen understanding of what aspects of the self are the most important filters through which one perceives the world, and more particularly, the topic being studied.”[9] This work brought up a lot of philosophical, emotional and intellectual challenges for me and by October 2014, I found each instance of approaching field work and creating field notes felt increasingly and inherently risky for me; I feared what new layer of self-analysis and questioning I would imminently face.

“His imaginations, and often his whole management of himself, is compelled to come to grips with a new situation, it is frustrated, as in culture shock, in its initial intention, and so brought to invent a solution.”[10] Wagner’s description of the fieldworker’s experience sounds a lot like what one expects to experience at Burning Man, though it can be assumed that the participant choses to be at Burning Man and is prepared for the experience and therefore has some familiarity or expectations. I know that I practice fits and starts of anthropological analysis or ethnographic research at Burning Man, but in light of this reading, I now realize that everyone must do this, at least a little bit, as they attempt to understand and play with a new way of living.

The many difficulties associated with returning to ‘normal life’ that Burning Man participants discuss and write about, echo the sentiment that, “Making the strange familiar always makes the familiar a little bit strange,” as Wagner describes the fieldworker’s processing of culture shock.[11] Wagner says, “It is worthwhile studying other peoples’ [culture], because every understanding of another culture is an experiment with our own”.[12] At Burning Man it is possible to personally experience deeply different versions of “‘natural law’, ‘logic’ or even ‘culture’,” as Wagner suggests, and “by seeing them as we view the concepts of other peoples, we may come to comprehend our own meanings from a truly relative viewpoint”.[13] However at Burning Man, the experiment is directly with one’s own experiences of self and society, which may be key to the ‘self-aware (rather than self-conscious) anthropology Wagner anticipates as being the modern expression of the field of study.[14]

This thesis project has also been an extended affair due to a combination of the challenge of defining when research must stop to give way for writing and analysis amidst the fascinating, ongoing, dynamic and culturally interrelated nature of this zeitgeist movement. The timeline of the project was also affected by my own discomfort with establishing a strong stance or concrete commentary, as my own positionality and views regarding the movement were shifting. This project was realized with the understanding that I can only describe what was, but not what is, or is coming.[15]

 

1.4    Literature Review

A literature review of emergent culture, cultural incorporation, countercultures, Burning Man, and festival culture provided information, conceptual frameworks and analytic perspectives for qualitative analysis.

Hakim Bey, T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. 1985.

Bey’s T.A. Z concept is a philosophical underpinning of the revolutionary potential of the social experiment of Burning Man. Furthermore, his definition and exploration of the ideas of Poetic Terrorism and Art Sabotage are directly applicable to the discussion of the ‘early burn’ event of 2007. Bey’s notion that tradition and cultural mores may be inverted to disrupt a culture that has been degraded to a spectacle of consumption in order to save it, can be seen in Paul Addis’ actions. While Bey’s conclusions of how a T.A.Z. may be sustained or need to be abandoned provides direction for the consideration of the future of Burning Man.

 

Burning Man: Community of Chaos? Produced by Mark Silver. Channel 4. 2000.

Silver’s film provides a glimpse of the state of affairs of Burning Man long before I was directly involved and soon after the event became organized. With commentary from many of the core cultural leaders and actors then, and now, this is a good resource for direct quotes and to compare changing attitudes, especially those of the Burning Man founders.

 

Caveat Magister. “Who the Hell Are Burners Anyway?” The Burning Blog. 5 April 2012.

Caveat Magister’s blog post is the best attempt I have found to come to a clear description of what it means to call oneself a member of the Burning Man community. Caveat references incomplete adherence to the Principles and presents examples of the radically different people, camps and activities one may find at the Burning Man event, working up to a definition stating that it is made up of action and personal experience, not words and description and inherently independent, creative and messy (but we clean up after ourselves).

 

Katherine K. Chen, Enabling Creative Chaos; The Organization Behind the Burning Man Event. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Chen’s Enabling Creative Chaos is an intense discussion of the benefits and pitfalls of bureaucratic and collectivist approaches to organization. Chen considers these frameworks and presents an analysis of the distinctive and hybridized approach to business, volunteer/community building and the expression of responsibility and expectations that the Burning Man organization has taken in order to sustain the unique culture of its society. Though it could be used as an organizational management and negotiation handbook, Enabling Creative Chaos also describes a social structure and claims that the fringe, marginal or unorthodox character of the community has been protected while interacting with conservative and conformist entities like the federal authorities that issue the annual permit for the Burning Man event. Chen reflects on nine years of experiential research, personal experience and genuine group participation to pen this contribution to the community of Burning Man.

 

James Clifford, “Taking Identity Politics Seriously: The Contradictory, Stony Ground…” (2000), in Without Guarantees: Essays in Honour of Stuart Hall, eds. Paul Gilroy, Lawrence Grossberg, and Angela McRobbie. 94-112. London: Verso Press.

With what may be considered widespread success of the event, Burning Man is grappling with how to sustain/contain/maintain/protect/grow the culture of the event and community with so many new participants. “Commodification of identities and traditions,” Clifford says, is “integral to a late-capitalist or post-modern world system of cultures,” [16] or the culture of the dominant culture that surrounds the subculture of Burning Man. Therefore the event and community’s cultural mores of dedication to decommodification and valuing experience and interaction over consumption and transactions, is particularly challenged by mainstream society’s influences.

Clifford’s question, “How much hybridity can conventions accommodate without losing the ability to assert integrity of tradition?”[17] is applicable to this emerging culture’s rapid growth and is essentially a key question of this project. Furthermore, Clifford’s statement that, “The relative dynamism and power of interacting local and global forces and the ultimate question of determination – who consumes whom – cannot be read off,” [18] continues the theme of supporting this critique of the cultural sustainability practices at play within the Burning Man culture. It is certain that the culture of Burning Man cannot be sustained; it must evolve and change, especially because this is a culture and an event founded upon transgression, transformation and defiance. As Clifford states, tradition for Burning Man may be “less about preservations than about transformative practice and the selective symbolization of continuity.”[19]

 

Brian Doherty, This is Burning Man: The Rise of the New American Underground. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2004.

Though much more academic and literary work has been published since 2004, Doherty’s This is Burning Man is the quintessential book on the event, the community and the history of both (and served as my personal introduction to Burning Man too). The author weaves interviews and personal accounts into an intimately informative and surprisingly objective description and history of a counterculture that is not without controversy, politics and factions. Despite accounts that vary dramatically from ‘official’ descriptions on the Burning Man website and may seem critical of key Burning Man organization and original group members, all of those I have talked to from within the movement praise Doherty’s work as an essential study guide, giving merit to the history it presents.

 

Dust and Illusions. Directed by Olivier Bonin. Madnomad Films, 2009.

Bonin expertly executes an objective and critical view of the history and present (as at 2009) expression of the ideas that shape Burning Man. After five years of effort, Bonin’s film speaks from a place close to the core of the Burning Man organization and community and does not belittle this effort with cronyism. Bonin preseted a similar tone in our personal interview. The film explores the earlier movements that spawned Burning Man (Suicide Club, Cacophony Society) and early days of Burning Man as well as the well-heeled spectacle of the 2000s.

 

Kevin Evans, Carrie Galbraith and John Law, Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society. San Francisco: Last Gasp, 2013.

This anthology of philosophies, experiments, pranks and subversive actions tells the stories of the countercultural group that pre-dated Burning Man and sets the scene for the emergence of Burning Man in the San Francisco Bay Area. The promotion of this book led to my deeper interaction with the contemporary community of Cacophonists in San Francisco and interviews with main players in the book.

 

Debora Kodish “Envisioning Folklore Activism.” Journal of American Folklore. Volume 124, Number 491, Winter 2011.

This piece inspired my understanding of ethnography as an inherently curatorial pursuit, as ‘authenticity’ may be defined by the folklorist’s voice of ‘authority’. In this article, Kodish argues for the importance of activist ideals for folklore research and public practice. Kodish also present the concepts of authenticity and authority, as well as Bakhtin’s Carnivalesque, as sources of disempowerment and objectification as well as empowerment and agency. From this reading I developed the idea that festival spaces may be the spaces in-between that allow much needed social innovation and creativity to emerge and inspire societies to evolve.

 

Victor Turner, The Ritual Process. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1969.

Victor Turner’s definition and use of concepts of liminality and communitas are foundational for this cultural sustainability pursuit. Considering the cultural changes that have occurred since the Burning Man community has grown from 35 people on a beach to 70,000 in the Nevada desert, demands an understanding of ritual, group formation and bonding and the unique nature of liminoid experiences that open and unprogrammed festival environments such as Burning Man create.

 

Roy Wagner, The Invention of Culture. University of Chicago Press: 1975.

This work helped me to understand the practice of ethnography better and realize that I enact this approach to my life experiences more often than not. Wagner’s description of the fieldworker’s experience sounds a lot like what one expects to experience at Burning Man; though it can be assumed that the participant choses to be at Burning Man and is prepared for the experience and therefore has some familiarity or expectations, as Wagner says, “His imaginations, and often his whole management of himself, is compelled to come to grips with a new situation, it is frustrated, as in culture shock, in its initial intention, and so brought to invent a solution.”[20]

The many difficulties associated with returning to ‘normal life’ that Burning Man participants discuss and write about, echo the sentiment that, “Making the strange familiar always makes the familiar a little bit strange,”[21] as Wagner describes the fieldworker’s processing of culture shock. At Burning Man, it is possible to personally experience deeply different versions of “‘natural law’, ‘logic’ or even ‘culture’,” and Wagner’s assertion that, “by seeing them as we view the concepts of other peoples, we may come to comprehend our own meanings from a truly relative viewpoint”[22] further vindicated my ethnographic study of this culture that I was in fact a part of. Furthermore, since at Burning Man the experiment is directly with one’s own experiences of self and society, this practice aids the advancement of Cultural Sustainability by providing fertile space for that which may be key to the ‘self-aware (rather than self-conscious) anthropology Wagner anticipates.[23]

Finally, Wagner’s statement that, “the culture we live is threated, criticized, counter-exemplified by the culture we create,”[24] forms the philosophical bedrock for my personal and academic exploration of the culture of Burning Man.

 

Gary Warne, Carnival Cosmology, posted 3 January 2012.

Besides being quoted in full in two of my other sources, this essay by Suicide Club founder, Gary Warne, is important to this work because it has provided a personal point of inspiration and understanding to me throughout this process. “The world is a midway; cities are its sideshows,”[25] runs through my mind as I engage in experiences both mundane and magnificent. “Fear is a freeze on the future, the filter or floodgate that stops our imaginings,”[26] narrates my inner voice as I hesitate at the face of a challenging new experience. “The world is becoming a total play environment and I am becoming something else entirely. The future is no longer on a circuit like the news, entertainment or something an entrepreneur plans as I expectantly read the notices in the bleached parchments on the corner stands. It is an imagination away,”[27] describes the validation I feel for taking the strange, indecipherable, incessantly winding and seemingly illogical path through the life/playground I find myself at the helm of. Because of course, “We [are] here to play, if nothing else, here to play with the world and other people.”

 

Brad Wieners, “Hot Mess” in Outside Magazine. 24 August 2012.

Wieners blends a relatively recent report of the contemporary reality of Burning Man with an impeccable telling of the 1996 events that changed Burning Man forever, made up of a collage of first-hand accounts.

 

Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

This piece stimulated the core ideas of this work; the process of cultural incorporation. This discussion of the “incorporation” of the emergent paradigm’s superficial elements by the dominant power system particularly fueled my suspicion of Burning Man’s recent rapidly developed popularity and created my interest in differentiating “dominant” and “popular” cultures. Williams’ description of the potentially dramatically distant “social location of the residual” inspired my idea that Burning Man may be merely the current articulation of an alternative paradigm that was more prominent before industrialization. Finally, the introduction of the idea of seeing social spaces that are initially ignored by the dominant as fertile spots for dissent, which are then slowly transformed to be included in the “ruling definition of the social” is directly applicable to my research topic. My concern for the applicability of the author’s Marx-steeped assertions to the diverse community I am working with, was alleviated as Williams states that the struggle of emergent society is distinct from that of the rising class.

 

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Next week in Chapter 2: Background…

Yesterday’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why. – Hunter S. Thompson

Burning Man is a contemporary iteration of a lineage of subversive subculture through The Cacophony Society and the Suicide Club, which were strongly inspired by The Situationist International and Dada avant-garde movements, among others. In order to assess the state of Burning Man culture today, it is necessary to understand the revolutionary and revelatory ideas from which it emerged.

References and notes:

[1] Victor Turner, The Ritual Process (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company,1969), 167

[2] Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style. (London: Routledge, 1979)

[3][3] Dennis R. Fox “Psychology, Ideology, Utopia, and the Commons”. American Psychologist, 40 (1985):48-58

[4] I soon realized Burning Man community members often refer to the playa, the location of the main annual BM event in the Nevada desert, or sometimes wherever many of them are gathered as ‘home’, based on the idea that you are deeply safe, supported and celebrated here.

[5] The term (and theory titled) “New Social Movements” seeks to explain and describe the rise and nature of emergent (since the 1960s ) middle class social movements in western society that are “post-industrial and post-materialist” i.e. they are not concerned with economic or class justice, but changing social norms around the exercise of human rights, identity, lifestyle and culture.

Nelson A. Pichardo, New Social Movements: A Critical Review, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 23: 411-430, 1997

[6] Burning Man Project, 10 Principles, http://burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles/, Accessed 24 November 2015

[7] Katherine K. Chen, “Lessons for Creative Cities from Burning Man: How organizations can sustain and disseminate a creative context.” In City, Culture and Society Volume 2, Issue 2 (June 2011), 11

[8] Burning Man Project, http://burningman.org/culture/burning-man-arts/grants/brc-honoraria/. Accessed 24 November 2015.

[9] Jeremy Hockett, “Participant Observation and the Study of Self: Burning Man as Ethnographic Experience” in AfterBurn: Reflections on Burning Man, ed. Lee Gilmore and Mark Van Proyen. (University of New Mexico Press, 2005), 67

[10] Robert V. Kozinets, “Can Consumers Escape the Market? Emancipatory Illuminations from Burning Man” in Journal of Consumer Research. 29 June 2002

[11] Hippie Tim, Personal Interview, 4 February 2013

[12] Mark Stirling, Personal Interview, 4 February, 2013

[13] Erik Davis, “Beyond Belief: The Cults of Burning Man” in AfterBurn: Reflections on Burning Man, ed. Lee Gilmore and Mark Van Proyen. (University of New Mexico Press, 2005), 15

[14] Mikail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (1984). p 249-50. qtd in Sharon McIver, WaveShapeConversion: The Land as Reverent in the Dance Culture and Music of Aotearoa. (University of Canterbury, 2007). http://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/bitstream/10092/1635/1/thesis_fulltext.pdf Accessed 2 February 2013, p 183.

[15] Kozinets, Consumers, 29.

[16] Steven Raspa, Personal Interview 11 November 2014

[17] Kozinets, Consumers, 29

[18] Jay Michaelson, “The Truth About Burning Man”, The Huffington Post, 18 November 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jay-michaelson/the-truth-about-burning-m_b_279464.html. Accessed 24 November 2015.

[19] Michaelson, “The Truth About Burning Man”

[20] Caveat Magister “Who the Hell Are Burners Anyway?” The Burning Blog. 5 April 2012. The Burning Man Journal. http://journal.burningman.org/2012/04/philosophical-center/tenprinciples/who-the-hell-are-burners-anyway/ Accessed 24 November 2015.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Caveat Magister, “Burning Man Should Treat ‘Academia’ the Way It Does ‘Commercialization’, The Burning Man Journal (26 February, 2013) http://journal.burningman.org/2013/02/opinion/serious-stuff/academia-commercialization/ Accessed 24 November 2015

[24] Turner, Ritual, 128

[25] Fox, Psychology, Ideology, Utopia, and the Commons

[26] Debora Kodish “Envisioning Folklore Activism”, Journal of American Folklore, Volume 124, Number 491, Winter 2011, 45

[27] James Clifford, “Taking Identity Politics Seriously: The Contradictory, Stony Ground…” (2000), in Without Guarantees: Essays in Honour of Stuart Hall, eds. Paul Gilroy, Lawrence Grossberg, and Angela McRobbie. London: Verso Press, 94-112

[28] Guy Debord Report on the Construction of Situations (1957) qtd in, Robert Chasse, Bruce Elwell, Jonathon Horelick, Tony Verlaan, “Faces of Recuperation”, The Situationist International, Issue #1 (New York, June 1969), http://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/faces.html Accessed 24 November 2015.

[29] Rory Turner, Week Three Cultural Sustainability Theory Lecture (2012). Accessed online

[30] Roy Wagner, The Invention of Culture (University of Chicago Press: 1975), 11

[31] Wagner, The Invention of Culture, 16

[32] Dust and Illusions. Directed by Olivier Bonin. Madnomad Films, 2009.

[33] Rory Turner, Week Three.

 

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