The Burning Man Festival is a weeklong spasm of radical self-expression held annually just before Labour 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'. Both Lee Gilmore and Mark Van Proyen have attended Burning Man annually since 1996.
Lee Gilmore received her PhD at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, and teaches at Chabot College in Hayward, California. Mark Van Proyen is associate professor of art history, painting, and digital media at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Introduction; Beyond Belief: The Cults of Burning Man; Fires of the Heart: Ritual, Pilgrimage and Transformation at Burning Man; Participant Observation and the Study of Self: Burning Man as Ethnographic Experience; Welcome to the Black Rock Cafe; Incendiary Incentives: How the Burning Man Organisation Motivates and Manages Volunteers' Kaleidoscopic Cortege: Art Cars at Burning Man and Beyond; Utopia, Social Sculpture and Burning Man; A Tale of Two Surrealities; No Novenas for the Dead: Ritual Action and Communal Memory at the Temple of Tears; Index.