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Burning Man Book Now Out: Theater in a Crowded Fire Author Speaks in SoCal

September 22, 2010

Every summer, thousands gather from around the world in the blistering heat of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for the seven-day celebration of art, community, and fire known as Burning Man. Culminating in the spectacular incineration of a wooden effigy, this festival is grand-scale theater for self-expression, personal transformation, eclectic spirituality, communal bonding, and cultural renewal. In this engrossing ethnography of the Burning Man phenomenon, Lee Gilmore explores why “burners” come in vast numbers to transform a temporary gathering of strangers into an enduring community. Accompanied by a DVD, which provides panoramic views of events, individuals, artworks, and, of course, the climactic final night, the book delves into the varieties of spirituality, ritual, and performance conducted within the festival space. UC Press

Anthropologist Lee Gilmore, author of the recently released Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man (University of California Press 2010) will speak at a series of fall events to discuss her findings on why so many Burners describe Burning Man as a spiritual and transformative event and the significance of this event for the future of religion.

According to a review by Sarah Pike, author of Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community

“Gilmore’s study brings new voices and experiences to current debates about religion versus spirituality through her richly textured descriptions of the characters, events, and spaces that make up the seemingly strange but culturally significant Burning Man festival. Readers will discover that Burning Man is a wonderful illustration of the dialectic between self and community at the heart of much of American religion today. Gilmore persuades us that those who trivialize this event by seeing it as a huge party, miss the ways in which Burning Man provides an unusual snapshot of diverse forms of American spiritual-seeking.”

(And yes, I plan to review the book here myself as soon as I get my copy of it! AND a DVD too –wow!)

Lee knows what she’s talking about: she teaches in the Religious Studies and Anthropology departments at California State University, Northridge and her previous publications include AfterBurn: Reflections on Burning Man, co-edited with Mark Van Proyen.  She has been attending Burning Man since 1996.

The first event is this Weds. Sept. 22 from 7:30-9pm at The Bodhi Tree Bookstore Annex, 8583 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA 90069. For more info about this event see:

Lee will also be at the author booth at Pagan Pride LA/OC on Sunday September 26 from 11:30-12:30:

The details are still coming together, but watch for a  USC event on a Wednesday night in October with Larry Harvey, the man widely credited for starting Burning Man 25 years ago.

Lee Gilmore teaches in the Religious Studies and Anthropology departments at California State University, Northridge. Her previous publications include AfterBurn: Reflections on Burning Man, co-edited with Mark Van Proyen.  She has been attending Burning Man since 1996.

For more info about the book see:

Burning Man 2010 photos from the portfolio of Wade Scribner–thanks Wade! Top photo of the Man from Burning Man 2010, middle the Man Burns at Burning Man 2005 in Wade’s favorite photo, and finally, the tangled bank of evolution with the Man standing above form Burning Man 2009.

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