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Chapter 6 Republic of the Imagination, Burning Man and the culture of radical self expression

DOI: 10.23912/978-1-910158-55-5-3020

ISBN: 978-1-910158-55-5

Published: February 2016

Component type: chapter

Published in: Focus on World Festivals

Parent DOI: 10.23912/978-1-910158-55-5-2822



Burning Man, it could be argued, is the best party on the planet and one of the most elaborate and complexly engineered. Where else could you have a dance party on a large duck where everyone is dressed as their fantasy avatars; or sit on an art car called ‘The Bleachers’ designed like stadium seating to watch and be watched, complete with referees in the standard black and white attire directing playa traffic; or mount a double-decker bus that resembles an underground rave in Eastern Europe; or dangle from cables as you smash your opponent to hard core punk rock at the Thunderdome; or find yourself at a large open-aired dance party with over 5000 people dancing to the world’s most famous DJs and electronic music acts such as Bassnectar and Beats Antique? Burning Man has elevated the art of partying to epic proportions from mobile niche environments to large-scale international acts drawing crowds of thousands. At Burning Man, you can create your own experience and any desire you might have can be found and fulfilled on the playa. It is as if everyone’s fantasy is being played out simultaneously and it is in the collision of these fantasies that meaningful encounters occur. However, to confine and reduce analysis of Burning Man to ‘the world’s best party’ would be to overlook the intricate complexity and layers that constitute this epic annual desert event. The evolution and history of the event has been well documented from a variety of perspectives (See Doherty, Bowditch, Chen, Gilmore, and others) so I will not repeat those histories here. The first official book to chart the history of the event was Brian Doherty’s This is Burning Man: The Rise of a New American Underground (2006) mapping the early formative years of the event from its inception in 1986 on Baker Beach in San Francisco, the impact of the Cacophony Society on the development of the Burning Man ethos, to the transfer of the event to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada in 1990.

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  • Rachel Bowditch (Author)

For the source title:

  • Chris Newbold, De Montfort University (Editor)
  • Jennie Jordan, De Montfort University (Editor)

Cite as

Bowditch, 2016

Bowditch, R. (2016) "Chapter 6 Republic of the Imagination, Burning Man and the culture of radical self expression" In: Newbold, C. & Jordan, J. (ed) . Oxford: Goodfellow Publishers http://dx.doi.org/10.23912/978-1-910158-55-5-3020


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