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Burning Progeny: The European Efflorescence of Burning Man

English title Burning Progeny: The European Efflorescence of Burning Man
Applicant Gauthier François
Number 162446
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Domaine Sciences des sociétés des cultures Département des Sciences sociales Université de Fribourg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Sociology
Start/End 01.01.2016 - 31.12.2019
Approved amount 565'284.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Sociology
Religious studies, Theology

Keywords (9)

Identity; Event culture; Consumer Culture; Burning Man; Transnationalism; Belonging; Multi-Sited Ethnography; Gift; Community

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
CHAPEAU. Ce projet enquête sur les processus de traduction européenne de la culture du festival Burning Man et de son économie fondée sur le don. Né dans le désert de Black Rock, au Nevada aux États-Unis, cet événement est devenu un phénomène mondialisé avec des antennes dans plus de 30 pays. À partir d'une recherche de terrain multi-site sur une période de trois ans, ce projet est la première étude à s'intéresser à la diasporaïsation de cette culture événementielle et à explorer la manière dont les Dix Principes se trouvent réactualisés et réappropriés en Europe.
Lay summary

1. CHAPEAU. Ce projet enquête sur les processus de traduction de la culture du festival Burning Man et de son économie fondée sur le don en Europe. Né dans le désert de Black Rock, au Nevada, cet événement est devenu un phénomène mondialisé avec des antennes dans plus de 30 pays. À partir d'une recherche de terrain multi-site sur une période de trois ans, ce projet est la première étude à s'intéresser à la diasporaïsation de cette culture événementielle et à explorer la manière dont les Dix Principes se trouvent réactualisés et réappropriés en Europe.

2. OBJECTIFS. Le premier objectif est de faire oeuvre pionnière dans le champs des études des "cultures événementielles" et ainsi d'implanter une approche de type Cultural Studies en Suisse. Ce projet déploie une méthodologie mixte (quantitative/qualitative) et les théories issue du paradigme du don afin de développer le concept de culture événementielle et de montrer comment un événement au départ marginal se transforme en mouvance mondialisée. Carnets, entretiens semi-directifs et ethnographie multi-site sont les moyens à travers lesquels ce projet accède à ces dynamiques.

3. CONTEXTE. Apparaissant puis disparaissant à la fin de l'été autour de la figure du 'Man', Burning Man se présente comme la ville éphémère la plus grande au monde. Au cours des trente dernières années, guidé par l'organisation du nom de Burning Man Project, cet événement artistitique est devenu une mouvance mondiale. À travers la pratique d'artistes, de designers, d'ingénieurs en informatique, d'entrepreneurs spirituels et de bien d'autres encore, l'ethos du don propre à cet événement s'est transporté suivant les ramifications d'une diaspora transnationale pour irriguer 55 événements régionaux dans 30 pays, avec l'Europe comme premier foyer après l'Amérique du Nord. En tant que première recherche consacrée à la prolifération de la culture 'Burner', ce projet place l'UniFr au coeur de la recherche émergente sur les cultures événementielles, de leur naissance et de leur transnationalisation.

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 08.10.2015

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
LEAD. The project investigates the European translation of Burning Man, a uniquely transnational gift economy that has evolved from the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, into a global phenomenon with events in over 30 countries. Via a three-year collaborative multisited ethnography, the project will explore the dynamic career of Burning Man’s Ten Principles in progeny events in Europe, providing the first extensive study of this self-organising event-centered movement.
Lay summary

1. LEAD. The project investigates the European translation of Burning Man, a uniquely transnational gift economy that has evolved from the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, into a global phenomenon with events in over 30 countries. Via a three-year collaborative multisited ethnography, the project will explore the dynamic career of Burning Man’s Ten Principles in progeny events in Europe, providing the first extensive study of this self-organising event-centered movement.

2. AIMS. The chief goal is to pioneer Event-Culture Studies, an outcome that will innovate a genuine Cultural Studies approach in Switzerland. To achieve this end, the project will deploy mixed ethnographic methods and apply event-culture and gift paradigm theory to demonstrate how a marginal subcultural event is converted into a global movement. We intend to access the internal dynamics of this transnational movement using solicited diaries, semi-directed interviews and multisited fieldwork.

3. CONTEXT. Designed as a vast grid of streets radiating around a standing figure called “The Man”, governed by a cooperative, self-organising ethos, Burning Man is the world’s largest temporary city. Over three decades, spearheaded by the Burning Man Project, the event has transformed from a remote art festival into a global movement. Through the practices of artists, designers, computer engineers, spiritual entrepreneurs and others within a transnational diaspora, the event’s gift-driven ethos has been transposed to over 55 Regional Events in more than 30 countries, with Europe the strongest growth region outside North America. As the first study of the proliferation of “burner” culture, the project will be pivotal to the formation of an event-culture research network in which UNIFRI will play a key role.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 08.10.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Dramatic Heterotopia: The Participatory Spectacle of Burning Man
St JohnGraham (2020), Dramatic Heterotopia: The Participatory Spectacle of Burning Man, in Souch Irina, Wesselman Daan, Ferdinand Simon (ed.), Routledge, New York, 178-194.
At Home in the Big Empty: Burning Man and the Playa Sublime
St John Graham (2019), At Home in the Big Empty: Burning Man and the Playa Sublime, in Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 13(3), 286-313.
‘Welcome Home !’ L’hospitalité à Burning Man
GauthierFrançois (2019), ‘Welcome Home !’ L’hospitalité à Burning Man, in Revue du MAUSS semestrielle, 53, 235-254.
Civilised Tribalism: Burning Man, Event-Tribes and Maker Culture
St John Graham (2018), Civilised Tribalism: Burning Man, Event-Tribes and Maker Culture, in Cultural Sociology, 12(1), 3-21.
Blazing Grace: The Gifted Culture of Burning Man.
St JohnGraham (2017), Blazing Grace: The Gifted Culture of Burning Man., in NANO: New American Notes Online, 11 July, 1-1.
Burning Man in Europe: Burns, Culture and Transformation
VitosBotond, GauthierFrançois, ST JohnGraham, Burning Man in Europe: Burns, Culture and Transformation, in Festival Cultures, 1(1), 1.
Ephemeropolis: Burning Man, Transformation and Heterotopia.
St JohnGraham, Ephemeropolis: Burning Man, Transformation and Heterotopia., in Journal of Festive Studies, 1(2), 1-1.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Griffith Center for Cultural Research, Griffith University Australia (Oceania)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost, Université du Québec à Montréal Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
MAUSS (Mouvement anti-utilitariste en sciences sociales) France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
AAA/CASCA meeting Talk given at a conference Roundtable: The Anthropology of Transformational Events 22.11.2019 Vancouver, Canada St John Graham;
Ethnologiekolloquium Individual talk How anthropology can make you a good sociologist in the global-market era 06.11.2019 University of Zürich, Switzerland Gauthier François;
The Uncanny in Language, Literature and Culture Talk given at a conference "Uncanny Encounters from Alfred Jarry to the Cacophony Society to Burning Man" 17.08.2019 Birkbeck, University of London, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Vitos Botond;
Conference of the Society for Study of Religion, Nature and Culture Talk given at a conference Blank Canvas: The Black Rock Playa and Cultivating Ephemerality at Burning Man 13.06.2019 Cork, Ireland St John Graham;
Inside Festival Cultures: Fields, Bodies, Ecologies Conference Talk given at a conference Artopia: Art, Drama & Redress in Burner Culture 16.05.2019 Birmingham, Great Britain and Northern Ireland St John Graham;
Inside Festival Cultures: Fields, Bodies, Ecologies Talk given at a conference "Surveying European Burners: Regionals, Values and Motivations" 16.05.2019 University of Birmingham, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Vitos Botond;
Inside Festival Cultures Conference Talk given at a conference Keeping the Spirit Burning: Gift, Play & Ritual at Burning Man 16.05.2019 University of Birmingham, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Gauthier François;
Burning Man and Transformational Event Cultures Symposium Talk given at a conference "Surveying EuroBurners: Regionals, Values & Motivations" 29.11.2018 Université de Fribourg, Switzerland Vitos Botond;
Burning Man and Transformational Event-Cultures Symposium Talk given at a conference Burning Spirits: Gift, Play and Ritual 29.11.2018 Université de Fribourg, Switzerland Gauthier François;
Burning Man and Transformational Event Cultures Symposium Talk given at a conference Art, Drama & Redress in Burner Culture 29.11.2018 Fribourg, Switzerland St John Graham;
Fachkolloquium, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology Individual talk Burning Man: From Cultural Event to Event-Culture 18.10.2018 University of Basel, Switzerland St John Graham;
European Association for the Study of Religions Conference Talk given at a conference Burning Man in Europe 17.06.2018 University of Bern, Switzerland St John Graham; Gauthier François;
Panel “Theory of Religion”. ISSR bi-annual conference Talk given at a conference A Three-axial System of the Gift Theory of Religion 03.07.2017 Université de Lausanne, Switzerland Gauthier François;
Cultural Studies Association Crossroads Conference Talk given at a conference Charms War: Dance Camps and Sound Cars at Burning Man 12.12.2016 University of Sydney, Australia St John Graham;
Conference of the Society for Study of Religion, Nature and Culture Individual talk Spiritual Festivals, Science and Nature 16.01.2016 Gainsville, Florida, United States of America St John Graham;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Burning Man and Transformational Event Cultures 29.11.2018 Université de Fribourg, Switzerland

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
"Research on the Burning Man Frontiers”. Part of The Radical City: Dreamers, Makers, and Doers public programme at Dokk1 supplementary to the Burning Man European Leadership Summit Talk 13.04.2019 Aarhus, Denmark St John Graham;
"Burning Progeny" Dine-around at Burning Man European Leadership Summit Workshop 06.04.2018 Nantes, France St John Graham;
Burning Progeny at Burning Man Global Leadership Conference Workshop 02.04.2017 Oakland, United States of America Muguet Flore; St John Graham;
"The European Efflorescence of Burning Man” at Burning Man European Leadership Summit Talk 05.03.2017 Stockholm, Sweden Muguet Flore; St John Graham;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media The Big Empty Aeon Magazine International 2018
Media relations: print media, online media "Un anthropologue au Burning Man." Interview by Clare O’Dea. Horizons: Le magazine suisse de la rech Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland 2017

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
173340 Ritual Creativity in the Swiss and European Rainbow Gatherings 01.08.2017 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Context: The project investigates the European proliferation of Burning Man, self-identified as the world’s largest temporary city. Burning Man is an annual weeklong event attracting up to 70,000 people to the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Over the course of three decades, Burning Man has transformed from a remote art festival into a prodigious cultural movement with a global profile. Designed within a vast grid of radial streets established around a standing figure called “The Man”, otherwise known as Black Rock City (BRC), Burning Man is governed by a participatory, self-organising ethos. From festival to movement, Burning Man and its uniquely principled gift-economy have been transposed worldwide. Indeed, spearheaded by the Burning Man Project, this ritualised event-centred movement and its so-called Ten Principles has undergone transnationalisation, with its impact felt in Regional Events in thirty countries. Through the practices of artists, designers, computer engineers, spiritual entrepreneurs and other legates within a global “Burner” diaspora, the event’s gift-driven ethos has been appropriated and reinterpreted in these regional translations. Europe is the strongest region of translation outside of North America, with Regional Events in Switzerland among ten European countries. Research questions: As the first study of this global movement, the project will investigate the dynamics of Burning Man’s diasporisation by way of inquiry on the translation and modification of its Ten Principles in Europe. How is Burning Man’s gift-economy recast outside of Black Rock City? What is the significance of this movement with respect to the dynamics of identity and community in the age of global consumerism and transnational mobility? How does a sub/countercultural event become a cultural movement? To achieve this inquiry, the project applies an innovative template comprising event culture and gift paradigm theory to demonstrate how a marginal cultural event is converted into a global movement.Methods: Over three years, the project will mobilize mixed qualitative methods to address these questions. Informed by preliminary research (including an electronic survey conducted in 2014), we have devised a comparative ethnography comprising solicited diaries, semi-directed interviews and collaborative multi-sited fieldwork on the internal dynamics of Burning Man and four of its European Regional Events.Impacts: The project is expected to provide definitive insights on self-organised event-centred movements. A benchmark ethnography of a transnational event culture formation, the case study will offer an exemplary application of gift theory. The resulting heuristic advancements for event cultures, cultural movements and consumer culture will be of significant value to the disciplines of Cultural Studies and Socio-Cultural Anthropology. The project is expected to pioneer the field of Event Cultural Studies, enabling the establishment of a genuine Cultural Studies perspective in Switzerland.
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