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Ritual Creativity in the Swiss and European Rainbow Gatherings

English title Ritual Creativity in the Swiss and European Rainbow Gatherings
Applicant Gauthier François
Number 173340
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 Religious studies, Theology
Start/End 01.08.2017 - 31.07.2021
Approved amount 291'802.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Religious studies, Theology
Sociology

Keywords (10)

Participant observation; Multi-sited ethnography; Contemporary religion; Rainbow Gatherings; New Age; Play; Alternative and holistic spiritualities; Ritual; Event-culture; Ritual creativity

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Rainbow Gatherings originated in the wake of the 1960's and 70's countercultural movement in the US, and have since grown into a longstanding, transnational 'event-culture'. The movement's migration to Europe proceeded through Switzerland in the early 80's, and Switzerland continues to be an active and important node in the growing European Rainbow networks. The Rainbow Gatherings form a vital hub of the New Age movement in its contemporary formations, displaying an original culture with vivid religious themes, characterized by its eclectism and creativity. The proposed project is the first scholarly research of the European Rainbow events, and it examines religiosity in Rainbow Gatherings through the varied rituals and other religious expressions, with a focus on the processes of creativity in construction, performance, interpretation, authentication and legitimization of ritual actions and their underlying symbolism, functions and meaning.
Lay summary

Les Rainbow Gatherings tirent leur origine de la contre-culture des années 1960-70 aux ÉUA, avant de se développer en une culture événementielle durable et transnationale. La migration du mouvement en Europe s’est fait au travers de la Suisse au début des années ’80, et la Suisse constitue toujours un point nodal de ses réseaux européens. Le phénomène est une partie importante de la mouvance New Age et présente une sous-culture originale aux accents religieux éclatants, caractérisés par l’éclectisme et la créativité. Ce projet est le premier à s’intéresser aux réseaux européens des Rainbow Gatherings, et examinera leurs religiosités telles qu’elles se donnent à voir à travers divers rituels et autres expressions religieuses, avec un focus sur les processus de création, de performance, d’interprétation, d’authentification et de légitimation qui y ont cours. Le projet se divise en deux parties : D’abord la description historique et ethnographique de ce mouvement, avec une attention particulière aux dimensions religieuses. Deuxièmement, une étude plus poussée des processus de créativité rituelle, avec pour objectif de nourrir une analyse des mutations contemporaines du religieux hors-religions.

Ce projet remplit un vide dans la recherche académique en étant le premier à s’intéresser à ce phénomène très influent de la contre-culture et à rapporter des données tant qualitatives que quantitatives, dont des données socio-démographiques (âge des participants, origines, convictions religieuses et politiques, classe sociale, etc.). Ce projet produira notamment une thèse de doctorat, une série d’articles, une conférence internationale, ainsi qu’un ouvrage en co-direction.   

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 31.03.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
162446 Burning Progeny: The European Efflorescence of Burning Man 01.01.2016 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Context: This research project investigates a significant alternative-spiritual movement-the gatherings of the 'Rainbow Family', and extends into questions of ritual creativity in a 2-part study. These events originated in the wake of the 1960's and 70's countercultural movement in the US, and have since grown into a longstanding, transnational 'event-culture'. The movement's migration to Europe proceeded through Switzerland in the early 80's, and Switzerland continues to be an active and important node in the growing European Rainbow networks. The Rainbow Gatherings form a vital hub of the New Age movement in its contemporary formations, displaying an original culture with vivid religious themes, characterized by its eclectism and creativity. The proposed project is the first scholarly research of the European Rainbow events, and it examines religiosity in Rainbow Gatherings through the varied rituals and other religious expressions, with a focus on the processes of creativity in construction, performance, interpretation, authentication and legitimization of ritual actions and their underlying symbolism, functions and meaning.Research questions: Part 1 is concerned with a historical and descriptive study of European Rainbow Gatherings with special attention to their religious dimensions: What is the history as well as social, cultural and religious characteristics of Rainbow Gatherings and their (sub)culture? How are these aspects expressed in beliefs and practices? How are the Gatherings and their culture experienced and interpreted by participants? What kinds of religious expressions, practices and types of rituals occur in these events? Part 2 focuses on ritual creativity with the following research questions: How are the rituals in Rainbow Gatherings crafted? What is achieved with ritual (and religious) creativity, what kind of needs does it address? What kind of religious and social critique is embedded in the crafted rituals? How are the crafted rituals re-contextualized? How do ritual actors establish the authority of these rituals, and their own authority? What can be learned about the relationship between ritual's form and content and it's perceived aim, efficacy, purpose and function? How are aspects of play involved with the rituals in Rainbow Gatherings? What do these rituals tell us about the evolution of rituals today and the dynamics of ritual efficacy?Methods: The research will operationalize the research questions and working hypotheses through a multi-sited ethnography of Rainbow Gatherings in Europe, with a specific focus on Swiss and Swiss-collaborated events and networks. The ethnography will consist of a mixed-method approach with three components: 1) participant observation-based fieldwork including 2) semi-structured and semi-formal interviews, and supported by 3) a survey mapping the socio-demographics of the Gatherers. This combination is designed to access on-going actions as well as accomplished actions as narrativised by the actors, especially concerning the creative and performative aspects of crafted rituals, and will allow for an analysis of subjective significations articulated with contextual (political, social, economic, cultural) determinants.Impacts: This project fills a void in quality academic research on one of the most important event-culture borne out of the 60's and 70's counter-culture: Rainbow Gatherings. It is the very first to study the European movement and will provide yet unreported comprehensive historical, descriptive and quantitative information on the movement, including socio-demographics of participants. Through its focus on ritual creativity from an empirical, ethnographic perspective, as well as its pioneering theoretical frame, this project will make an important contribution to the study of vernacular religion, 'holistic spiritualities', Ritual Studies and to the socio-anthropology of religion more widely. The project will produce a PhD thesis, articles, an international conference and a co-edited book on ritual creativity.
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