On the Edge of Utopia

Performance and Ritual at Burning Man

Rachel Bowditch


6 x 9 inches, 364pp, 70 halftones June 2010

ISBN : 9781906497255

Rs  695.00 (HB)
$35.00 (HB)
£24.00 (HB)

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During the week before Labor Day every year, nearly fifty thousand people gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert and build Black Rock City. At the center of Black Rock City is a forty-foot wooden effigy of a man, an icon around which art, performance, and community revolve. Since 1986, the Burning Man Festival has evolved from founder Larry Harvey’s personal healing ritual into a cultural movement where ceremony, religion, visual art, and performance converge on an epic scale.


In On the Edge of Utopia, Rachel Bowditch—performer, theater director, scholar, and Burning Man participant—explores the spectrum of performance and ritual practices within Black Rock City from the everyday to wild spectacle, the profane to the sublime. Bowditch argues that Burning Man can be understood as a contemporary galaxy of happenings, a revival of the ancient Roman Saturnalia, a site for rehearsals of utopia, and a secular pilgrimage. As Burning Man continues to grow, it will create new paradigms for performance, installation art, community, and invented rituals that bridge ancient traditions to the twenty-first century.

Rachel Bowditch is assistant professor at Arizona State University in the School of Theatre and Film. She is artistic associate of Schechner’s East Coast Artist Exchange and associate of RoseLee Goldberg’s Performa.


Theatre And Performance Studies
Culture Studies