Burning Man in Europe: Burns, Culture and Transformation

Botond Vitos, Graham St John, François Gauthier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Burning Man is an annual participatory arts event and temporary city co-created in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Also known as Black Rock City, it has spawned a global movement with over 100 “regional events” (or “burns”) worldwide. Conveying qualitative findings from surveys targeted at European Burning Man participants (or “Burners”) and triangulating these findings with ethnographic fieldwork and interviews conducted in Germany, the chapter explores the complexities of Burning Man’s stature as a transformational event prototype. We recognise burns-Black Rock City and its worldwide progeny events-as experimental heterotopia, or “counter spaces, " that enable a proliferation of ritualesque and carnivalesque performance modes. By addressing Burner values and motivations, we discuss the appeal of burns, notably their multiplex potential for personal and cultural innovation. As this chapter illustrates, the performative/transformative logic of Black Rock City, the complexity of which is mirrored and mutated in progeny events, inheres in an ethos known as the Ten Principles. Part of a larger project addressing the transformative innovation of Burning Man, the multi-methodological investigation of this event culture focuses on the principles of Gifting and Leaving No Trace highlighted in German Burner initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFestival Cultures
Subtitle of host publicationMapping New Fields in the Arts and Social Sciences
EditorsMaria Nita, Jeremy H. Kidwell
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan, Cham
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9783030883928
ISBN (Print)9783030883911, 9783030883942
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2021


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