This is the work where a segment of my House Music 101 will appear.
Rave Culture and Religion (see abstract below) is a collection of essays edited by Graham St. John and to be published by Routledge in 2003. The book will be published in print and ebook formats.
Rave Culture and Religion is an edited collection of 16 essays written by academics and experienced cultural commentators who explore the socio-cultural and religious dimensions of the rave, 'raving' and rave-derived phenomena. Scholars of contemporary religion, dance ethnologists, sociologists and other cultural observers unravel this core cultural practice amongst contemporary youth. Though various commentators have initiated research on this youth cultural moment, Rave Culture and Religion will be the first venue devoted to such research.
Despite its diasporic fragmentation and hybridisation throughout the nineties, the dance party rave - involving masses of youth dancing all-night to a syncopated electronic rhythm mixed by DJs - maintains rapturous popularity in the West. Commonly accorded effects ranging from personal 'healing' or replenishment, to transformations on social, cultural or political scales, the rave - from clubland, to outdoor doof, to technomadic festival - is a hyper-crucible of contemporary youth spirituality. The question thus arises: What is the role of the technocultural rave in the spiritual life of contemporary youth?
Emerging in London in 1988 and subsequently exported around the world, the rave has proliferated and mutated alongside associated music (electronic) and body ('ecstasy') technologies. Throughout the nineties, vast numbers of western youth attached primary significance to raving and post-rave experiences. Regularly regarded by participants as a site of 'self-transcendence', a kind of temporary utopia, the rave grew prevalent in the experience of urban youth. With the combined stimulus of electronic musics, psychotropic lighting and chemical alterants, young novices and experienced habitues transcended the mundane in converted warehouses, wilderness areas, beaches, deserts and streets.
Participants and observers have variously reported 'communion', 'telepathy', 'trance' states, 'ecstasy' or the 'sacred' along with a transcendence of subject, ethnic or gender categories at rave and post-rave events. Producers of rave soundscapes and visual components (from video images to décor) reportedly possess 'shamanic' characteristics. Events are often deemed 'tribal' celebrations even 'corroborees'. And, experienced habitues of dance champion psychedelic 'sacraments', sometimes claimed to accelerate the reception of esoteric knowledge.
Yet a torrent of inquiry issues from our initial question. Is the rave a nascent rite de passage and, if so, what is its telos? What is its level and quality of efficacy? Is it a ritual of communion, a mass 'return' to a 'womb' which sees co-inhabitants secure in a nutrient rich and numinous pre-separation stage, or an anomic post-partum 'dead-zone' catering for 'escapist' desires and tragic careers in over-expenditure? An 'oceanic experience' or a kind of prolonged youth suicide? Does the rave or post-rave more closely approximate a Church, Disney World™ or a “detention camp for youth” (Reynolds, Energy Flash 424). Has the cyber-chemical-millenarianism which flourished under the roof of the original acid house been domesticated - the rapture contained and smothered in regulated and commodified leisure sites? Or has its technospiritual fervour been smuggled away into furtive temporary autonomous zones where it percolates still?