Monday, September 20, 2010

The Endurance of Religiosity // The Burning Man Festival as Modern Desert Pilgrimage

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by Peter Schmidt

Lee Gilmore, a lecturer in religious studies and anthropology at California State University at Northridge, had an epiphany one night in the Nevada desert, brought on by visions of the Virgin Mary, the Buddha, and Elvis Presley. She had ventured out there for Burning Man, an annual festival held during the week leading up to Labor Day in the Black Rock Desert, about 120 miles north of Reno.

The product of her subsequent ethnographic study of the festival is Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man, out recently from the University of California Press. Based mainly on structured interviews and informal conversations with festival participants—as well as surveys of more than 300 people who participate in the Nevada festival or one of several regional spin-offs—the book makes the case that spiritual imagery, thinking, and ritual abound at Burning Man, even if the organizers and most participants soundly reject any effort to tie the event to any sort of religion.

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