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The Burning Man Festival is a weeklong spasm of radical self-expression held annually just before Labor Day since 1986. In late August 2003, more than 33,000 participants converged in Nevada's Black Rock Desert for this counterculture event staged as an experiment in temporary community.
The participants gather to rid themselves of the conventional structures of their life and to "sample" the alternatives in hundreds of theme camps. The climax of the festival comes when attendees erupt into cheers and applause at the burning of a forty-foot-tall human effigy described as "part pre-technological idol and part post-technological puppet."
AfterBurn contributor Erik Davis writes of the festival, "Ironic and blasphemous, intoxicated and lewd, Burning Man's ADD theater of the absurd might even be said to embody the slap-happy nihilism of postmodern culture itself."
CounterCulture series editor David Farber summarizes the significance of the event: "[Burning Man is] spiritual discovery, utopian experiment, artistic spectacle, participatory democracy, do-it-yourself anarchism, and communitarian adventure." AfterBurn features ten essayists each addressing a specific aspect of the festival, from the recruitment and management of volunteers, to the artistic and cultural context of the modern conception of Utopia.
Both Lee Gilmore and Mark Van Proyen have attended Burning Man annually since 1996.
|Ch. 2||Beyond belief : the cults of Burning Man||15|
|Ch. 3||Fires of the heart : ritual, pilgrimage, and transformation at Burning Man||43|
|Ch. 4||Participant observation and the study of self : burning man as ethnographic experience||65|
|Ch. 5||Welcome to the Black Rock Cafe||87|
|Ch. 6||Incendiary incentives : how the Burning Man organization motivates and manages volunteers||109|
|Ch. 7||Kaleidoscopic cortege : art cars at Burning Man, and beyond||131|
|Ch. 8||Utopia, social sculpture, and Burning Man||151|
|Ch. 9||A tale of two surrealities||173|
|Ch. 10||No novenas for the dead : ritual action and communal memory at the Temple of Tears||195|