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Graham St John

Graham St John is a cultural anthropologist with an interdisciplinary research interest in dance cultures, speed tribes, freak rituals, alternative subcultures and the anthropology of religion and performance. Graham was recently a Resident Fellow at the School for Advanced Research on the Human Experience, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is a Research Associate at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies.

In 2009, Graham will publish his book Technomad: Global Raving Countercultures with Equinox.

He is currently working on the international project (and book, forthcoming with Blackwell) Global Trance Culture: Technology, Religion and Psytrance, a critical enthography exploring the intersections of new spirituality and technology in one of the worlds most sophisticated and culturally diverse dance music subcultures: psytrance. Graham is also compiling a collection of screeds hatched over the past decade in festal adventures at home and abroad, together with new material thrown in for good measure: Off My Facebook: Postcards From the Event Horizon.

Past writing ventures have included the edited collection Rave Culture and Religion (Routledge, 2004) and FreeNRG: Notes From the Edge of the Dance Floor (Common Ground, 2001) the ebook for which can be downloaded right here on Undergrowth.

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Burning Time: Begoggled in the Mega-Vibe @ Burning Man by Graham St John

photo by Kyle Hailey

Photo: Kyle Hailey

1 > Metaraving: Bright Lights and Sweet Spots

Burning Man, the annual festival held on the vast canvas of an ancient lake bed (called the "playa") in the Black Rock Desert, northwestern Nevada. As an unparalleled universe of radical self-expression and non-dogmatic ritual initiated on San Francisco’s Baker Beach by Larry Harvey and Jerry James in 1986, Burning Man would become, following its transition to the Black Rock Desert in 1990, an outlandish pilgrimage center for alternative art and performance communities in the Bay Area, the West Coast, across the US, and around the world. The event is backed by decades of Californian freaklore. In his discussion of the “cults of Burning Man”, Erik Davis (2005: 17) outlines “cultural patterns” manifesting in this “promiscuous carnival of souls, a metaphysical fleamarket, a demolition derby of reality constructs colliding in a parched void”. Refractions of Californian spiritual counterculture more generally, these milieus of participant gravitation—the Cult of Experience, the Cult of Intoxicants, the Cult of Flicker, the Cult of Juxtapose, and the Cult of Meaningless Chaos—are cultures of performance and praxis overlapping with on-site vibe tribes, and their variant styles.

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Soulclipse > by Graham St. John

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Photo by deadreamer

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I recall reading on the refreshingly irreverent about an unconfirmed report that the former Portuguese colony of Goa was considering renaming itself `Progressive'. It's an intriguing quip, reflecting current anxieties over the rampant marketing of counter-cultural communitas and the formulaic standardisation of a sound (distributed as `Goa Trance') that now more accurately evokes a Fruitopia commercial, than the new spiritual experiments around Anjuna village way back in the day - such that the experience in Goa might now effectively approximate, well, a Fruitopia commercial, or a kind of `freak Club Med', as Erik Davis would have it.