Graham Peter St John

Graham Peter St John
University of Huddersfield · Department of History, English, Linguistics and Music

PhD
researching Burning Man: Dust, Fire & Music & biography Terence McKenna: The Strange Attractor (MIT Press, 2023)

About

67
Publications
111,752
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Introduction
As a cultural anthropologist specialising in transformational events, movements and figures, Graham has authored/edited nine books, including the forthcoming Terence McKenna: The Strange Attractor (MIT Press, 2023). Graham has held postdoctoral fellowships in Australia, the US, Canada, Switzerland and the UK, where he is currently Marie Curie Senior Research Fellow in the Dept of Music, at the University of Huddersfield. He is founding Executive Editor of Dancecult journal.
Additional affiliations
January 2016 - December 2019
Université de Fribourg
Position
  • Senior Researcher
January 2014 - April 2014
Université de Fribourg
Position
  • PostDoc Position
January 2013 - present
Griffith University
Position
  • Adjunct Research Fellow
Education
July 1993 - September 1999
La Trobe University
Field of study
  • Anthropology and Sociology

Publications

Publications (67)
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The dedication to ritual is persistent throughout electronic dance music cultures (EDMCs). From small regional parties to sprawling international festivals, from clubnights to week-long events, from techno to dubstep, organizers and participants are committed to phenomenal and embodied transformational experiences. It is common for participants to...
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With a focus on virtual reality, techno-rave culture, and “psychedelic trance,” this chapter explores practices of consciousness alteration within contemporary countercultures. By contemporary, I mean the period from the 1960s to the present, with the chapter addressing the continuing legacy of earlier quests for consciousness expansion. Central to...
Article
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This article provides a comprehensive and critical overview of existing research that investigates (directly and indirectly) the religio-spiritual dimensions of electronic dance music culture (EDMC) (from disco, through house, to post-rave forms). Studies of the culture and religion of EDMC are explored under four broad groupings: the cultural reli...
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This article takes issue with Victor Turner's influential, yet essentialist, category of the limen. While acknowledging Turner's continuing significance in the analysis of public events, I draw upon detailed ethnography of one of Australia's contemporary pilgrimage centres, the alternative lifestyle event ConFest, to reconfigure his project. Althou...
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Investigating the significance of carnivalized methods of protest in the present, this article explores the characteristics and recent history of the protestival, the carnival of protest which has flourished with the advent of the alter-globalization movement. Heir to the carnivalized politics of the 1960s, and drawing from radical avant-garde move...
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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 triangu...
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Foucault’s concept of heterotopia is adapted to comprehend events with intentional transformational agendas. An ephemeral community installed annually in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, Burning Man is an exemplary evental heterotopia. With the shortcomings of the romantic-utopian “transformational festival” label identified, the article considers Black...
Chapter
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Reassembled annually in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, Burning Man is a large-scale fire-arts gathering widely recognised as a world leader in inclusive and participatory events. Otherwise known as Black Rock City (total population 80,000 in 2018), Burning Man attracts a predominantly white middle-class populace. While its inclusive agenda is debatabl...
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Burning Man is an artistic community event that has been dis/assembled in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert every summer since 1990. The location of this event in this desert has had a shaping impact on Burning Man as a gathering, a city, an organization, and a transnational cultural movement. A unique facet of what is known as Black Rock City is not simp...
Chapter
The Cambridge Companion to Music in Digital Culture - edited by Nicholas Cook September 2019
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While Burning Man is an epic community arts event mounted annually in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, it is much more than the raising and destroying of its eponymous effigy. The event, known as Black Rock City, is built by an organizing body — a nonprofit today known as the Burning Man Project — that is motivated by an imperative to propagate a unique...
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DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is a powerful tryptamine that has experienced growing appeal in the last decade, independent from ayahuasca, the Amazonian visionary brew in which it is an integral ingredient. Investigating user reports available from literary and online sources, this chapter focuses on the gnosis potency associated with the DMT “break...
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Otherwise known as Black Rock City, Burning Man is an artistic event, that, mounted annually in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, has become the inspiration for a global cultural movement. While it has been the subject of considerable attention from ethnographers and sociologists, Burning Man has persistently resisted classification. In this article, I u...
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Abstracts in French and English ........................................................................................................................ La DMT (N,N-diméthyltryptamine) est une puissante tryptamine à effet de courte durée qui a gagné en popularité au cours de la dernière décennie, indépendamment de l’ayahuasca, un breuvage visionna...
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The thirty-year experiment, Burning Man, is mounted annually in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Today attracting 70,000 participants and otherwise known as Black Rock City, Burning Man is typically identified as an arts-based “gift culture,” with gifting holding privileged place in its principled ethos. Lewis Hyde’s classic The Gift is shown to be a...
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From massive raves sprouting around the London orbital at the turn of the 1990s to events operated under the control of corporate empires, EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festivals have developed into cross-genre, multi-city, transnational mega-events. From free party teknivals proliferating across Europe since the mid-1990s to colossal corporate attr...
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With clinical psychiatrist Rick Strassman’s DMT: The Spirit Molecule as a vehicle, the pineal gland has become a popularly enigmatic organ that quite literally excretes mystery. Strassman’s top selling book documented groundbreaking clinical trials with the powerful mind altering compound DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) conducted at the University of...
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Since the mid-1950s, the psychoactive compound DMT has attracted the attention of experimentalists and prohibitionists, scientists and artists, alchemists and hyperspace emissaries. While most known as a crucial component of the "jungle alchemy" that is ayahuasca, DMT is a unique story unto itself. Until now, this story has remained untold. Mystery...
Article
Full-text available
From massive raves sprouting around the London orbital at the turn of the 1990s to events operated under the control of corporate empires, EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festivals have developed into cross-genre, multi-city, transnational mega-events. From free party teknivals proliferating across Europe since the mid-1990s to colossal corporate attr...
Chapter
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Amid concerns of rapacious change and rampant consumption, the first statement in the epigraph is about the purpose of the Liminal Village (subsequently the Liminal Zone) at the 2006 Boom Festival in Portugal, while the second was inspired by an experience at Boom’s Dance Temple in 2002, with its author having ingested “2 grams of Hawaiian mushroom...
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This article offers detailed comment on the vibe of the exiles, a socio-sonic aesthetic infused with the sensibility of the exile, of compatriotism in expatriation, a characteristic of psychedelic electronica from Goatrance to psytrance and beyond (i.e. psyculture). The commentary focuses on an emancipatory artifice which sees participants in the p...
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This article examines how popular culture is remixed for the purposes of facilitating mystical experiences within a global electronic dance music culture. In particular, it investigates the sampling of space travel and alien contact narratives within psytrance, whose DJ-producers are like media shamans remixing fragments from cinema, TV series, doc...
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“Once I saw people applaud the sky” (Weil 1980). It was 7 March 1970, and later maven of integrative medicine Andrew Weil had become an eyewitness to an extraordinary life-­‐changing event. Under a clear Saturday morning sky, Weil had observed a diversity of villagers crowding into the market town of Miahuatlán, Oaxaca, Mexico, where they were expo...
Book
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Born from extensive international research, Global Tribe documents a little understood global dance culture that has mushroomed all over the world since its beginnings in diverse psychedelic music scenes flourishing in Goa, India, in the 1970s and 1980s. From small parties to major international events such as Portugal’s Boom Festival, the paramoun...
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As an electronic dance music movement, for over 20 years, psytrance (psychedelic trance) has been a context by which sonic, visual, pharmacological and virtual media have facilitated the expression of interwoven narratives, experimental modes of performance, and the experience of intense sociality in scenes the world-over. A key theme adopted withi...
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Psychedelic trance music and culture (psyculture) is explored as a culture of exodus rooted in the seasonal dance party culture evolving in Goa, India, over the 1970s/1980s, and revealing a heterogeneous exile sensibility shaping Goa trance and psyculture from the 1990s/2000s. That is, diverse transgressive and transcendent expatriations would shap...
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ABSTRACT What do anthropologists have to say about happiness? For some contributors in this Vital Topics Forum, happiness is a sensory force that colors and shapes human evolution and experience. Others consider happiness, or the lack thereof, to be a faceted reflection of the arrangements in society. All recognize the potential power of human happ...
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Connecting three generations of music enthusiasts, Goa Gil is an imposing figure in the world of psychedelic trance. If the title of his 2007 compilation registers intent, he is a Worldbridger. Bristling with motifs of world sacred sites and appropriated "tribal" icons, with Gil seated cross-legged upon the apex of a Mayan temple, the album's cover...
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This article charts the convergence of post-punk/post-settler logics in the techno-punk development in Australia. Exploring how punk would become implicated in the cultural politics of a settler society struggling for legitimacy, it maps the ground out of which Labrats sound system (and their hybrid outfit Combat Wombat) arose. It provides an entry...
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Several years ago, I started gathering interest in mobile initiatives committed to social and political causes in Australia called "sound systems". The likes of Labrats and other vehicles for the performance of postcolonial desires had been rallying the disaffected to wild and weird frontlines, pursuing, as techno-activist mover and shaker Pete Str...
Book
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This lively textual symposium offers a rich harvest of formative research on the culture of global psytrance (psychedelic trance). As the first book to address the diverse transnationalism of this contemporary electronic dance music phenomenon, the collection hosts interdisciplinary research attending to psytrance as a product of intersecting local...
Book
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A cultural history of global electronic dance music countercultures, Technomad explores the pleasurable and activist trajectories of post-rave culture. The book documents an emerging network of techno-tribes, exploring their pleasure principles and cultural politics. Attending to sound system culture, electro-humanitarianism, secret sonic societies...
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It was a remarkable failure. My most impossible objective: to do The Man in a day. Yes, that was the plan. Mounting pressures and misfortune back in the world (a new job approaching, a lost suitcase care of United Airlines and other miscellaneous mat-ters), forced my decision to attend the week-long Burning Man festival in Nevada's Black Rock Deser...
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This article explores the religio-spiritual characteristics of psytrance (psychedelic trance), attending specifically to the characteristics of what I call neotrance apparent within the contemporary trance event, the countercultural inheritance of the "tribal" psytrance festival, and the dramatizing of participants' "ultimate concerns" within the f...
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A review of Ken Gelder, Subcultures: Cultural Histories and Social Practice (Routledge, London, 2007).
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On Australia Day 1988, the Chairman of the Northern Land Council, Galarrwuy Yunupigu, announced that ‘Australia’s too old to celebrate birthdays’.2 In the subsequent decade, mounting sympathy for such views revealed the population’s anxiety with a nationhood founded on the ‘beautiful lies’ about which noted paleontologist Tim Flannery has made ampl...
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It is Sydney 1998 and, ‘like some crazed pirate galleon on wheels’, a strange bus was seen making its way around the city. Equipped with a PA and ‘DJ booth’ facing out from its rear hatch, the Peace Bus was reported to ‘broadside renegade dance floors or earth destroying mining companies, with a barrage of sonic arsenal’. The ‘steel pulse of protes...
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The collection provides insights on developments in post-traditional religiosity (especially 'New Age' and 'Neo-Paganism') through studies of rave's Gnostic narratives of ascensionism and re-enchantment, explorations of the embodied spirituality and millennialist predispositions of dance culture, and investigations of transnational digital-art coun...
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When Reclaim the Streets (RTS) activists passionately recount the first London events, as they have recently in We Are Everywhere, by the Notes from Nowhere collective, they effectively recollect what became a template for popular resistance in the emergent "movement of movements." The appearance in the mid 1990s of a global justice movement consis...
Book
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FreeNRG is a collection of frontline communiques on technotribes, contemporary musical practices and events transpiring on the fringes of Australian dance culture throughout the nineties. The anthology's 13 essays are written by specialists and affiliates of a spectrum of youth phenomena found at the edge of the dance floor. Edited by Graham St Jo...
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he Australian alternative lifestyle event ConFest (Conference/Festival) harbours a dynamic 'underground' music culture. This article investigates the role performed by musics in efforts to establish and maintain 'sanctified' space, and a concomitant sense of community, at Australia's principal alternative cultural pilgrimage destination. The perfor...
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Indigeneity has rapidly assumed significance for non-Aboriginal Australians. Complex signifiers. native landscapes and peoples are heavily implicated in the contemporary quest for settler legitimacy. Th.is article investigates the deployment of indigeneity in the identity strategies of alternative Iifestylers in Australia - drawing upon research co...
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Australia’s popular calendar event of alternatives, ConFest (Conference/Festival), is a principal location for the (re)affirmation of alternative lifestyle sacra. Attending to Victor Turner’s “cultural drama”, this article draws on fieldwork and archival research to circumscribe the complications of Self and Earth within this public event. After ch...
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In its most recent edition, The Macquarie Dictionary recognises as ‘feral’: ‘a person who espouses environmentalism to the point of living close to nature in more or less primitive conditions and who deliberately shuns the normal code of society with regard to dress, habitat, hygiene, etc’. A familiar persona dwelling on the edges of Australian cul...
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In a study of an Australian ‘alternative lifestyle gathering’, I investigate the authentica (the multiplicity of discourse and practice valued as ‘true’, ‘natural’, ‘pure’) championed and performed on-site. Using emic description, the article details the authentica of ‘play’ (ludic exploration via alterity, especially indigeneity), ‘earth’ (ecologi...

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