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Rave and religion? A contemporary youth phenomenon as seen through the lens of religious studies

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This article examines the contemporary phenomenon of raves. Although explicit religious references abound in rave culture and also in scholarly interpretations of raves, these references are generally analogous and avoid direct mention of "religion" proper. In this article, we apply the theory of displacement of religious experience and the sacred to draw out the structural and phenomenological religious homology of raves and set the study of this youth phenomenon and the subculture which surrounds it firmly within the field of religious studies. We also propose avenues for further investigation. The article begins with a brief history and definition of "rave." Then it turns to the symbolic and religious references found in raves as well as the meanings both participants and commentators attribute to this phenomenon. Third, it presents and discusses the ritual structure of rave, using the theory of the mechanism and dynamics of the transgression-fuelled festal ritual (la fête), as defined by Georges Bataille. Its purpose is to contribute to an understanding of how con temporary religious economy develops, particularly a religious economy that concerns a now largely secularized youth. © Canadian Corporation for Studies in Region/Corporation Canadienne des Science Religieuses.
... The key component in these events is the technologically produced dance music, continuously mixed by DJs, for long durations (sometimes up to 12 hours or longer) and with the purpose of encouraging people to dance. Additional elements that comprise most EDM events include elaborate decorations and visual effects, such as lights that flash to the rhythm of the music, lasers, wall projections depicting symbols, images, film, and sometimes, theatrical performances and dancers on stage with the DJ (Gauthier, 2004;Hutson, 2000;St John, 2012b;Sylvan, 2005;Takahashi, 2005). ...
... The term rave is typically defined as a gathering of people who listen and dance to electronic dance music in often unlicensed, obscure, continuously varying, and spontaneously organized locations such as a warehouse, church, beach, desert, or forest (Fritz, 1999;Gauthier, 2004;Hutson, 2000;St John, 2001;Sylvan, 2005;Takahashi & Olaveson, 2003). Raves are frequently described as underground dance events that are sometimes created with the intention to generate a cultural or spiritual change. ...
... However, such perspectives deny the potential for EDM events to function as a space for psycho-spiritual exploration and fail to inquire into the individual motivations of participants. A number of researchers in the field have recognized this gap in the scholarly literature and research on EDM culture (Hutson, 1999(Hutson, , 2000Gauthier, 2004Gauthier, , 2005Malbon, 1999;Sai Chun-Lau, 2006;St John, 2006, 2012aSylvan, 2002Sylvan, , 2005Takahashi, 2004aTakahashi, , 2004bTakahashi, , 2005Takahashi & Olaveson, 2003;Till, 2006). Using research methods inherent to the fields of anthropology, sociology, and religious and cultural studies, these researchers explored the meaning EDM participants associate with attending EDM events and uncovered transpersonal, spiritual, and religious dimensions of their experiences. ...
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Electronic dance music (EDM) events may function as a ritual space for psycho-spiritual exploration and personal development, often linked to the occurrence of non-ordinary states of consciousness in participants. This paper reviews the literature addressing the spiritual, religious, and transpersonal facets of participants’ experiences at EDM events, with an emphasis on the subsequent integration of these experiences into daily life. Several empirical studies conducted in the past two decades, of which the most recent was conducted by the first author of the present paper (Redfield, 2017, this issue), provides grounds to argue that EDM events can be vectors for enhancing personal and psychosocial wellbeing for their participants—a discussion that was omitted in previous studies that strictly emphasized either the dangers or the purely hedonistic nature of EDM participation. The paper concludes with suggestions for further research into the specific ways in which EDM events may benefit individual participants.
... Durkheim characterizes collective effervescence in its full-blown version as a form of "hyperexcitement" and "delirium" that carries people outside themselves, making them forget the norms, rules, and values they normally live by (Durkheim C21 1995: 386-387). This can be immensely liberating-or as some revelers put it, successful parties can be "mind blowing" and "blissful, " and make you feel "truly alive" (Gauthier 2004b). Though full-blown effervescence is rare and often passes quickly, it may nevertheless have significant individual and sociocultural ramifications. ...
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This chapter offers advice on how to conduct phenomenological ethnographic research in nightlife settings such as bars, nightclubs, and music festivals. It argues that phenomenological ethnography focuses on studying experiences as they occur to the people living them. Phenomenological ethnographers use their bodies as research instruments to develop an experiential connection and understanding of the people they are studying. Priority is given to clarifying essential properties of embodied, emotional, and sensory experiences, and to describing these as precisely as possible. The chapter proposes that the Durkheimian concept of collective effervescence may be used as a sensitizing tool to understand and describe some of the essence of what people search for, and sometimes experience, in nightlife settings. In particular, the concept is helpful in the study of intensive forms of celebration and intoxication. The chapter concludes with policy recommendations and suggestions to direct future research.
... However, research into the social sciences is fraught with epistemological challenges that social scientists have largely ignored. For example, across several domains, including religious studies (Gauthier 2004(Gauthier , 2005Kahn 2014), psychology, and anthropology (Lambek 2014), there is a growing critique of research findings that are not epistemologically sensitive. 7 In the case of anthropology, Michael Lambek (2014) cautions the researcher who undertakes deep ethnographic fieldwork in how they reach their conclusions. ...
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Context • South African public universities are currently undergoing a transitional period as they traverse the sensitive road of curriculum redesign that achieves an inclusive approach to education for the goal of the decolonisation of knowledge. > Problem • Many classrooms have students from several cultural backgrounds yet in these spaces there is often a single dominant discourse on offer. An ethical question is raised in terms of what content should be addressed in the classroom. > Method • An approach to curricula design as a conversation is presented. The philosophical aspects underlying shifts in epistemology are presented following an eclectic approach to curricula design that embraces second-order science in achieving the ongoing goal of decolonisation. The method used to achieve this goal is conversational heterarchical curriculum design assuming non quidem tabula rasa. Students can act as reference points (Nunataks) for curricula design, thus reducing the abstraction in the syllabus. > Results • A heterarchical conversational approach offers a platform whereby social justice may be addressed in the classroom by providing a means by which the students' own epistemology is embraced within the curriculum as the students provide the trajectory for the course content based on their own epistemology. A dynamic curriculum is then available that has immediate use in the communities that the students reside in. Students demonstrate understanding of the content as it is tied to their own way of knowing. > Implications • The benefits of this approach include moving away from defining science according to a realist view. Educators may accept the idea that knowledge is not impartial and that method is tied to epistemology. When the observer is included in science, an awareness arises that theories (at least in the social sciences) affect what is studied, which in turn affects society. > Constructivist content • The approach builds on von Foerster's ideas on reflexivity. Pask's conversation theory is a vehicle for the attainment of reflexive conversational teaching and learning.
... From the participants' accounts, themes reflecting transpersonal phenomena were: a direct experience of spiritual realms; experiences of ESP and other anomalous phenomena; experiences of ASC; unity; positive emotions; reinforced preexisting spiritual beliefs; awareness of purpose; an altered sense of time; love; relationships with spiritual International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 75 EDM Events Experiences and Integration beings; and a feeling of connectedness to the Earth. These themes support and expand upon prior research (Hutson, 1999(Hutson, , 2000Gauthier, 2004Gauthier, , 2005Malbon, 1999;Sai-Chun Lau, 2006;St John, 2006, 2012aSylvan, 2002Sylvan, , 2005Takahashi, 2004aTakahashi, , 2004bTakahashi, , 2005Takahashi & Olaveson, 2003;Till, 2006) on the spiritual and religious dimensions of EDM participation, as illustrated in Redfield, 2017 (this issue). ...
Article
Electronic dance music (EDM) events are attended by millions of people all over the world. While prior research uncovered the spiritual and religious elements as well as the transpersonal nature of EDM events, this preliminary study further explored the types of transpersonal phenomena that participants experience at EDM events and their subsequent integration of these experiences into daily life. A semi-structured, in-depth interview was used to explore this topic with 12 EDM participants. A thematic analysis was conducted on the data. Findings suggested that EDM events have the potential to foster interpersonal relationships with the numinous, spiritual beings, and human beings, as well as cause transformative intrapersonal and spiritual experiences, implying an enhancement in psychological and physical health and wellbeing in day-to-day life. Results also indicated that the EDM event environment, dancing, and electronic dance music play important roles in facilitating the induction of experiences of transpersonal phenomena.
... However, research into the social sciences is fraught with epistemological challenges that social scientists have largely ignored. For example, across several domains, including religious studies (Gauthier 2004(Gauthier , 2005Kahn 2014), psychology, and anthropology (Lambek 2014), there is a growing critique of research findings that are not epistemologically sensitive. 7 In the case of anthropology, Michael Lambek (2014) cautions the researcher who undertakes deep ethnographic fieldwork in how they reach their conclusions. ...
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The following sections are included: Differentiating externally motivated application and internally motivated practice The pleasure of constructing the world Cybernetic machines for thinking and showing
... Some of the drugs that are counted as entheogens by the participants of this studyparticularly cannabis and MDMAalso serve well as party drugs, and of course there is no a priori reason to assume that partying cannot be spiritual (e.g., Saunders et al. 2000;Gauthier 2004). ...
... Some of the drugs that are counted as entheogens by the participants of this study -particularly cannabis and MDMA -also serve well as party drugs, and of course there is no a priori reason to assume that partying cannot be spiritual (e.g., Saunders et al. 2000;Gauthier 2004). At some point the experimenters perhaps got more than they had bargained for, especially if the experimentation started including classical hallucinogens. ...
... Or en s'abstrayant quelque peu, on peut voir que les mutations qui ont affecté le religieux et ses caractéristiques contemporaines sont à placer en étroit rapport avec d'autres champs, à commencer par le politique où l'individualisation a eu des effets similaires en termes de désinstitutionalisation. Dans une recherche menée sur les nouvelles radicalités politiques dans les courants altermondialistes, nous avons repéré une dérèglementation institutionnelle et l'émergence de formes « acéphales » et horizontales de pratiques et d'imaginaires politiques rappelant singulièrement ce qui se déroule dans certaines sous-cultures musicale jeunesse comme les fêtes techno, où une analyse à partir des concepts de la socio-anthropologie religieuse s'avère féconde (Gauthier, 2006 ;voir aussi Gauthier et Ménard, 2001 ;Gauthier, 2004aGauthier, , 2004bGauthier, , 2005. En somme, tout comme le religieux se désarrime des religions pour se recomposer sous de nouvelles formes (en défiant du coup les analyses des sciences sociales), ainsi peut-on voir dans l'évolution de la contestation politique des dernières décennies un mouvement sortant des logiques propres aux structures politiques (rapports institutionnels de pouvoir) pour se recomposer dans des nouvelles formes nettement moins instituées et plus difficilement saisissables mais non moins cohe´rentes et structure´es. ...
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The bulk of the production in the sociology of religion today tends to corroborate the idea that contemporary societies are defined by their transience, as if en route towards some kind of future religious configuration still indiscernible. Yet one can note that empirical studies and scientific literature alike have been describing a situation which has tended to stabilize around certain characteristics these last two or three decades. This article argues that such stability signifies that these characteristics form an interdependent and coherent system and sketches out the hypothesis of a new regulation of religion in our societies contradicting such ideas as fragmentation and atomization. Following some of Charles Taylor's ideas, this article considers the advent of consumer society as realizing the subjective-turn part of the modernization process through a radicalization of the culture of authenticity and expressivity. Thus contemporary religiosities are individual answers to the social imperative to construct a self and a personal life narrative which in turn must be expressed in order to be recognized, this recognition being the mechanism through which consumer societies efficiently regulate.
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The Platonic way of life aims at transforming you into a deity. And while ancient Platonists recommended many contemplative practices for self-deification, they also recommended ascetic ways of life. Ancient Platonists pursued the he telestike techne, the craft of self-surpassing. Further, they recommended theurgical procedures for raising your self to the heights of the deities. But the old Platonic dream of self-deification evolved into the dreams of the modern transhumanists, and the ancient craft of self-surpassing evolved into practical transhumanism. Practical transhumanists apply the experimental method to the self. They update the craft of self-surpassing into the hacker methodology. The Platonic way of life is the way of self-hacking.
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Although evolution is not utilitarian, it is still providential; natural providence generates natural value, the virtue that emerges through competition. Evolutionary theodicies (call them evodicies) show how providence redeems suffering. Dawkins says we have been blessed with life. His principles imply that we have been blessed by value-creating evolutionary algorithms. So we ought to be grateful for our lives. He endorses a Stoic account of gratitude. Dawkins endorses an irreligious spirituality. A spiritual way of life involves self-transformation which aims at the good. The good is the virtue of human animality. Dawkinsian texts motivate both Stoic spirituality and Platonic spirituality. Stoicism uses spiritual exercises to cultivate equanimity and amor fati. Platonic spirituality drives you to become godlike. It compels you to strive for godlike animality, sociality, and rationality. The Dawkinsian modal theory of religion shows how we can replace old religious practices with new forms of social shifting to aspirational universes. Since meturgy means change-working, these are meturgical practices. Meturgical practices use the arts for transformative purposes. They include ecstatic dance, fire circles, and transformational festivals.
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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’ (ecological consciousness) and ‘tribe’ (the search for belonging in community) which are axiomatic to ConFest (Conference/Festival), one of Australia's principal sites for the celebration of alternative (‘edge’) culture. In this counter-space, an outsider status I call ‘ferality’ is conditioned. A repository of authenticity for many ConFesters, the ambivalent category feral, with its particular subcultural traits, is realised in a hyper-liminal zone on the margins, the cultural hinterland, of Australian society. Using the work of Turner (on ‘liminality’) and Maffesoli (on ‘neo-tribalism’), I seek to throw light on the (re)production of alternative culture in an analysis of an event where new frontiers in the fields of leisure, health, environment, religion and community are explored.
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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. Although ConFest may prove to be an exemplary field of liminality, as a decidedly contested and sensuous landscape, it demands re-evaluation of the implicitly consensual and non-carnal limen. I offer the concepts of alternative cultural heterotopia and liminoid embodiment, with the purpose of fashioning new directions in the study of alternative lifestyle, and other public events. Attending to contemporary pilgrimage research, spatial analysis and applying the ideas of Michel Maffesoli and Hakim Bey, this is a post-structuralist contribution to the anthropology of public events.
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In this paper, an emerging genre of psychedelic event known as doof is investigated and a definition is offered. The paper is based on fieldwork with psychedelic enthusiasts in Brisbane, Australia. An ethnographic description of a specific doof ('Stomping Monster Doof #3') is presented from an emic perspective, and the ritual techniques, processes and structures of doofs are discussed. The possible location of doof within a rich matrix of other religious, intellectual, and aesthetic/stylistic movements is explored, and a paradigm for a 'psychedelic morality' is outlined. The importance of 'earth-connection' and collective ecstasy as a source of meaning in the lives of 'post-seekers' is emphasised.