“Transformation” is a current buzzword used as an appellation to describe a range of phenomena, such as leadership, organisation, tourism, psychedelics, movements, and notably events with spiritual and proactive agendas. As anthropologists of ritual have long known, liminality—being in-between or on the threshold—is pivotal to transformation, whether of individuals, societies or cultures.
At the same time, researchers of electronic dance movements have long recognised that the socio-sonic aesthetic known as “the vibe” is an archetypically liminal state-of-affairs optimized by design. The presentation explores how a range of event-centered movements affect the liminal to effect transformation. Three cultural phenomena are to be addressed where events have evolved with transformational intent: psytrance, music festivals, and Burning Man. Cultural anthropologist Graham Peter St John discusses how transnational cultural movements orchestrate potential in events augmented by sensory technologies, participatory arts, and proliminal design. In doing so, he demonstrates how these event-cultures are infused with a conscious sensibility of the threshold, a collision of leisure and religiosity he calls “super liminal.”
Graham St John, PhD, is a cultural anthropologist specialising in festivals, neotribes, and entheogens.