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Burning Man: Religious Event or Sheer Hedonism?

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icymist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-07-10 01:59 PM
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Burning Man: Religious Event or Sheer Hedonism?
Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man
Lee Gilmore
UC Press (2010)
What inspired you to write Theater in a Crowded Fire?

From my very first day at Burning Man in 1996, Ive wanted to write about it. I was in my early years of grad school at the time and it didnt take long to see that Id stumbled into an extraordinary cultural petri dish in which people were consciously playing with art, symbol, and ritual in order to explore, expand, and reinvent the boundaries of late-modern culture.

Burning Man started as an impromptu gathering among a handful of friends on a San Francisco beach in 1986 and was moved to an obscure corner of Nevada called the Black Rock Desert in 1990, where it eventually grew into an internationally renowned event that draws close to 50,000 participants annually.

For one week in late August and early September, an elaborate civic infrastructure called Black Rock City is constructed, featuring a carefully laid out grid of streets in which participants set up hundreds of different theme camps. Organizers provide some basic services (camp placement, public information, and porta-potties being just a few), but participants must still supply all of their own gear, food, and water; sufficient to survive for one week in a very harsh desert environment. The Black Rock Desert is dominated by a dry lake bed called the playaan absolutely flat and desolate expanse of cracked alkali clayand the experience of camping there can be extreme.
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