note: It has now been over three years since this research was finished. This
text should be considered a good introductory history to the topic. But the
viability of the rave political 'movement' has since moved on... AF]
the Summer of Love rhetoric of the early UK acid house evangelists to San
Francisco’s cyberdelic community, from neopaganism of Spiral Tribe
to the transcendentalism of the Megatripolis/Goa Trance scene, rave has
always been home to another “politics of Ecstasy.”
exist both latent and explicit social and political agendas in the dance
culture. Inclusivity, community, spirituality and alterity are experiences that
influence a latent political resistance. There are three expressions of the
explicit politics of the dance culture: a call for drug-reformation,
harm-reduction and civil rights.
rave or a club may seem like bizarre places for anthropological inquiry, but
because they both act as spaces where notions of community, politics, and
spirituality foment; the dance culture warrants the attention of anthropological
dance culture is the most international cultural movement of this century.
Millions of people across all inhabitable continents and many islands are
participants in this taste culture. The dance culture’s geographies are raves
might argue that relating club and rave subcultures is disanalogous. If we look
at the mechanisms that order and create the subjectivities within, and the
genetics of the two subcultures, we can see that they are similar. It is
important to contrast raves and clubs in order to understand the demo/geographic
differences and material similarities.
are massive all-ages, all-night parties. They began in Britain in the late
eighties and are now a worldwide phenomena occurring in any and all open-spaces.
Clubs are more selective in the age, gender, and ethnicity of their clientele
because they have space and image restraints (Malbon 1999). They are under noise
ordinance laws and have to close at a certain hour. People attend both raves and
clubs for similar reasons. Four of the most important reasons are electronic
music orchestrated by a DJ, atmosphere, dancing and “drugs”
(“Entheogens” is a more appropriate term to designate the drugs used in the
dance culture. It is the term we will use for the remainder of this report).
(3, 4, methylene-dioxymetamphetamine), popularly known as “Ecstasy,” is
widely used both geographies. Spiritual
experiences and notions of community are facilitated
for many by the pharmacokenetics of MDMA.
social research on the dance culture is rare. Collins (1997) and Thornton (1995)
have written histories on the British dance culture. Mizrach (1996) has written
an ethnomusicology on dance music and Pendergast (2000) a history of ambient
music. Redhead (1993; 1998) has edited two collections of essays on the dance
culture. Richard and Kruger (1998) wrote an article on the German dance culture.
Fritz (1999) wrote an emically biased book on the dance culture. Saunders
(1995), Beck and Rosenbaum (1994), and Cohen (1998) have written about MDMA and
its use in the dance culture. Poplar music magazines like Spin,
Revolution, Velocity, Mixmag
and XLR8R provide valuable emic perspectives. At this point virtually
every major newspaper in the country has had printed in their pages an article
two primary resources for the anthropology of the dance culture are Clubbing:
Dancing, Ecstasy and Virility by Ben Malbon (1999) and Generation
Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture by Simon Reynolds (1999).
Clubbing is a participant geography
rich with biographical asides and informant vignettes. Generation
Ecstasy is a history of the rave culture with an emphasis on the many
branches of electronic music and the influences of MDMA on the genesis of the
are five constituent similarities between these two works. First, they both
emphasize the role MDMA has in formulating the culture. Both books suggest that
musical preferences lend to taste-based demography within the dance subculture.
Thirdly, both books stress the dynamic interface between electronic music and
entheogens. Both authors discuss diversity; Malbon emphasizes phenomenology,
while Reynolds shows us the environment where individuation occurs. Finally,
both writers assert that there are latent and explicit politics and spirituality
within the dance culture.
two books work in tandem. Where Malbon teaches us that individuals find their
identity in club crowds, Reynolds exhibits the psychoacoustics that influence
the individual within the crowd. Reynolds makes known who associates him/herself
with one of the many techno musical genres. Malbon writes about the experience
of the individual within that techno-musical atmosphere. Malbon gives us the
license to equate the sensation of inclusivity with a music-entheogen-dance
synthesis as Reynolds conceives the impetus behind the dance culture.
Hutson’s article, “The Rave: Spiritual Healing in Modern Western
Subcultures” (2000) contributes to our understanding of the communalism and
spirituality in the dance culture. In some respects this article is incomplete.
These inconsistencies offer me the opportunity to expand upon group and
individual identity in the dance culture. While discussing spirituality and
community in the dance community, I will address three issues in Hutson’s
report. He claims that there are no political and social agenda in the rave
culture. He downplays MDMA use. Finally, his comments about a dance cultural
unity encoded in the anachronism P.L.U.R. are broad reductions about a leisure
activity that is multi-faceted and diverse.
thesis is simple and valid to many who have experienced or researched the rave
culture. Malbon, Reynolds, Saunders, Mizrach, Collins, Beck and Baum would all
agree to his thesis statement:
rave can be conceptualized as a form of healing comparable both to shamanic,
ecstatic healing documented in ethnographies of small-scale non-western
societies and to spiritual experiences in modern western subcultures.”
states that the critical elements of raves are “dance music, long duration,
and ecstatic experience” (2000: 35). In this respect, the rave experience is
comparable to many shamanic ecstatic techniques. He does well in explaining the
spiritual opportunities to be had at a rave. However, his ignorance of the role
MDMA plays in the spirituality of the dance culture reveals a hesitancy to
condone entheogen use. This limits our understanding of MDMA’s role in the
formulation of spiritual therapeutics and politic.
perspective on the spirituality within the rave context is mixed. When he says,
“what makes rave culture so ripe for religiosity is the ‘spirituality’ of
the Ecstasy experience” he is suggesting a religiosity on the dance floor and
citing MDMA as the gnosis source (1999: 243). When Reynolds says that rave
culture is “geared towards fascination rather than meaning,” he is
categorizing the rave as a simulation, as simulacra (1998: 90; Baudrillard
1988:10). Under Reynolds’s definition, raving, being a product of
postmodernity, can not have a spiritual component.
finds Reynolds’s post-modern critique on meaning in raves deficient because it
does not directly relate to informants’ claims. For those that choose to find
spirituality in the rave, Malbon offers a different outlook on the spirituality
to be had in the dance culture.
from being concerned with some form of mindless and meaningless hedonism, then,
as often portrayed in popular (mis)representations of clubbing, it seems that
the experience of ecstatic sensations can actually be about an extraordinary
and, for many, unparalleled and extremely precious experience of their own identity”
including his field work into the “oceanic experience,” Malbon refines the
concept of entheogen/trance induced “altered states.” By describing the ecstasis
reported by clubbers as “oceanic” Malbon adds the semantical subcategory to
the concept of “altered states.”
to Malbon, oceanic experiences are characterized by one or more of the following
sensations: “ecstasy, joy, euphoria, ephemerally, empathy, alterity,
release” (1999: 107). Clubbers experience these states via the synergism of
two or more of these four vehicles: entheogens, dancing, music and integration
into the dancing crowd. “Moments of oceanic contemplation,” analogous to the
spiritual experience, occurs in the transformation from individuality into a
“membership of the clubbing crowd” (1999: 110). Thus, the experience of
inclusion in the dancing crowd offers the participant an opportunity to access
the oceanic realms.
music, club/rave social interaction, dance forms and trance-states are heavily
influenced by MDMA’s pharmacokenetics. “Acid house” is inarguable the
maternal genre for subsequent electronic dance musics. Peruse the interviews of
the pioneers in acid house’s formative stages in Chicago, Detroit, Ibiza and
London. These artists often cite MDMA as a valuable creative catalyst. When the
tracks were pressed to record-vinyl the “experience consuming” crowd
amorously embraced it with MDMA-excited affection.
substances have long been used by artists to fuel creative insight
(Plant 1999). According to Plant, cognitive enhancers make precise,
recognizable interventions in consciousness, in cultural life, and politics.
Pioneering ambient music producer Mixmaster Morris summed up the influence of
entheogens on cultural paradigm shifts when he said, “the times we have seen
great cultural shifts, tryptomine molecules played their role” (Frequency
1987, the London club “Shoom” synthesized acid house music, psychedelic
ambience and MDMA. In this regard, “Shoom was the chrysalis of rave culture”
(Reynolds 1999: 60, 61). MDMA consumption at this club was high. “By
many-off-the-record accounts, ‘ninety per cent’” of the Shoom crowd was
indulging in the consciousness enhancer (Thornton 1995: 145). After experiences
had at “Shoom,” club promoters and DJ’s Paul Okenfold propogated dance
music and dance culture throughout the UK.
Reynolds cites the messianic role MDMA played in collecting the dance scene into
a distinct subculture.
has been embraced as one element of a bourgeois-bohemian version of rave, in
which the music-drugs-technology nexus is fused with spirituality and vague
hippy-punk-anachro politics to form a nineties would-be counterculture.”
(Reynolds 1999: 239)
According to Reynolds, the ethos of the dance culture is a “vague”
anarchistic politics, that, when combined with MDMA use, has a spiritual
suggest that explicit political activity, (in the forms of civil disobedience,
legislative petitions, direct action, etc.), though it does occur, is not
essential to the formulation of a viable dance culture politics. The dance
culture latently revolts against the mainstream through alternative music,
chemical novelties, gender subversions and the pursuit of pleasure to the
neglect of occupational accomplishment. In essence, the dance culture resists
is interested in resistance, less in terms of political activism, but rather as
constituting an action in which an, “‘alternative conception of the self’
may be fostered” (Malbon
1999:146). Through imaginative pleasure seeking and playful vitality, clubbers
are re-defining themselves through the ideal they find on the dance floor. This
redefinition often consists of a reality ignorant and often opposed to the
exercising taste preferences in musical genre’s and dance spaces, clubbers'
"consume experience." In this respect, clubbing is a form of
"imaginative pleasure seeking" (Malbon 1999). This form of playful
vitality includes implicit notions of resistance. This model of resistance
consists of choosing alternative pleasure over mainstream identities. Escaping
the humdrum of the daily grind rejuvenates the clubbers. As one informant said,
from work, escaping from normal life, escaping from everything, everything in
full-stop...nothing else matters...that whole night...is...going to be my
vitality can be articulated as a sensation of inner strength and effervescence.
Malbon argues that playful vitality can be experienced through flow-like play on
the dance floor. By intoning a "conceptual language" through dancing,
clubbers "actively engage in the production of the night." Dancing may
be conceptualized "as an expressive form of thinking, sensing, feeling and
processing"(Malbon 1999: 86). Techno music is interactive.
to participate in a bureaucratic system that does not represent one’s sense of
belonging is a robust form of rebellion. The identity choices offered by the
mainstream do not satisfy the dance culture. For example, the vehement followers
raves gathered in 1990’s Britain may have represented growing disillusionment
in a Thatcherian economy. 
example of dancing as resistance was seen in the Love Parade that occurred in
Tel Aviv, Israel in October of 2000. The party drew 200,000 on the same weekend
that 12 Palestinian and/or Israelis were slain. The party was a signal to the
previous generation that the Israeli dance culture is opting to dance rather
than feud over religion and resources (quote).
the examples given in recent texts (Malbon 1999; Reynolds 1999; Hutson 2000),
clubbers and ravers are often at a loss in quantifying their experiences and
even less capable of implementing their dance-floor epiphanies. One of the
consistent traits of euphoria is that it is beyond articulation (Lakshi 1961).
To include the dance culture’s form of resistance into anthropology’s mold
of automated-liberation, social researchers will have to do one of two things.
Either expand their notion of politicizing to include non-activity, or write-off
the dance culture as being a meaningless expression of the “desiring
machine” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987). In an interview with a member of the
Moontribe Consortium, the war against the dance culture is a War against
being on the same entheogen, night schedule, and in the same psychoacoustic
space the dance culture creates bastions where inclusivity and politics may
flourish. With the experiential sensation of co-componentry in the temporary
utopian communitas, as experienced in
the rave and club culture, comes an urge to politicize.
states that the rave community has a doctrine “codified as ‘Peace, Love,
Unity, Respect (PLUR)” (2000: 40). A “doctrine,” as Hutson uses it,
presupposes a body of believers unified under a philosophy.
cultures are music cultures. Musical diversity, manifesting in multiple musical
genre’s, signifies multiple youth cultures. In Britain, in the late 1980’s,
in the nascent two years of raves, there was a limited number of genres of
electronica. Generalization about a collective dogma were possible. Since those
halcyonic times the scene has scintillated. Following evolutionary theories of
progressive ornamentation (White) Rushkoff’s concept of the self-organizing
dance floor human fractal patterns and the Extropian principle of “perpetual
progress,” the dance culture has automatically diversified.
To present the early 21st century rave community in anthropological
literature as codified, under a unifying philosophy, is erroneous. The most
obvious discrepancy in this remark is that the “dance culture” as (ab)used
here is itself a gross simplification. Millions of people representing multiple
languages and any continent might portray the “dance culture” on any given
weekend. In any one metropolis the world over clubbers and ravers have the
option of hearing a diverse selection of electronic music.
are multiple dance subcultures associated with the various musical genres. Some
musical genre’s include techno, house, garage, acid house, ambient, loungecore,
trance, jungle, gabba, turntablism, trip-hop, drum and bass, techstep,
minimalism and big beat. Each music genre has its unique fashion, dance and
language style. An editor of the British Muzak
magazine said, “[the dance culture] has become far more disparate. The
homogeneity we have seen has become fragmented. Everyone is into his or her own
scene” (Frequency Modulations).
dance genres promote the experiences of community and the “oceanic” while
others do not. For example, the genre of music called “happy hard core,”
rarely popular with anyone except young ravers, may be more apt to adhere to the
PLUR slogan. While the connoisseurs of this year’s most popular genre of
electronica, drum and bass, do not purport to be vehement supports of the PLUR
doctrine and instead sport a more unban and DIY ethic.
Media, Amnesia, Apathy
first outdoor raves in Britain and San Francisco were “suffused with an almost
political idealism.” The parties “were technically illegal challenges to the
forces of land ownership and law and order.” However, democratization through
commodification by the leisure industry of subcultural capital has extinguished
the “idealism of the rave scene.” According to informants, this shift from
meaningfulness to simulation is seen in the corruption of electronic music into
mainstream forms and in drug trends. “With the demise of outdoor parties.
Cocaine and alcohol replaced the almost sacred use of Ecstasy” (Diy 2001:85).
Spooky, a sound-collage artist and science-fiction writer, suggests that there
is little incentive for political activity in the dance culture when he calls it
a “culture of amnesia.” He says, “the late 20th century
generation does not want engagement with the world around them.” This insular
attitude he calls “an internal colonization.” XLR8R magazine editor Tomas
Palermo also alludes to the tendency towards apathy when he pleads “as the
sounds of electronic music begin to sync with the speed of technology, let this
not be another year to drown ourselves I cultural nostalgia.” Alec Empire
(Atari Teenage Riot) suggests a more apocalyptic and nihilistic narrative: “It
was boredom that led to Fascism in the 1920’s. I think that is exactly what is
going on in this generation. Nobody wants to change anything” (Frequency
supports the claims of most scholars when he designates the rave culture as a
form of “collective disappearance” (1999: 239). However, he rejects the idea
that the raving is an escapists’ solution to post-modernity when he calls
ravings, “an investment in pleasure that should not be written off as mere
retreat or disengagement” (1999:239). Pursuing pleasure to the neglect of
social obligation, states Reynolds, is a salient form of resistance.
identity is based on alterity. The symbiotic and parasitical nature of the
relationship of mainstream media to a subcultures is such that subcultures
resist the deportation of their icons and the inclusion of mainstream symbols.
Margaret Murray says she would like to “lock arms with fellow activists and
say, “Yes, we are fighting, and yes, we are winning.” To her surprise the
dance culture is “blissfully apolitical.” She believes that this state is a
result of “divergent ideologies.” Existentially she states “clubs are a
refuge,” where she can hide from TV, computers and news. Her febrility exists
from media bombardment (XLR8R # 44: 80).
dance culture has a natural resiliency towards the mainstream (moral
majority/media) not only because mainstream advertisements exploit and wilt the
subcultural capital of the underground but because the media also excites
paranoia through sensationalistic journalism and iconographic saturation. This
propaganda leads to fear which manifests in suppressions of the dance culture
through laws and fines. When a subculture is exploited by the mainstream it must
find novel collateral from which to define itself. Malbon believes that through
continual upheaval and morphism a subculture resists assimilation (1999:146). By
resisting assimilation, the dance culture retains many of the traits that make
it attractive: subcultural capital, novelty and the stimulation of
self-expression encouraged in all its many forms, a rave is the ultimate
expression of personal freedom. For many, the club experience on the dance floor
is itself the highest manifestation of emancipation. Every revolution demands
the right to freedoms previously denied. The dance culture seeks to expand and
retain their personal and collective rights.
music is synthetically generated music. It is the folk music of today’s
cybernetic generation. The looping swells and shivering mechanics of its
symphonies are designed to enhance MDMA’s pharmacokinetics. The “oceanic”
sensation of collective identity as experienced through dancing, entheogens and
multi-sensorial stimulation, lends to a spiritualism that is both archaically
romantic and progressively futuristic. With the temporary utopian communitas,
as experienced in the rave and club culture, comes an urge to politicize and
perpetuate this ideal into the profane life.
believe that the community building oceanic experience is too ephemeral to have
a potent political agenda. Criticalists believe that the oceanic experience
cannot be formulated into praxis and is therefore not revolutionary.
says, “despite the rhetoric of communal harmony, ravers, like channels, do not
work toward creating such a community” (2000: 45). Later, he acknowledges that
there may exist some explicit political soirees. He does this by including a
condescending quote from McKay who says that there are “a few disparate groups
. . . [that demonstrate] for the right to carry on getting out of their heads
and dancing to weird music on weekends” (1996: 104). Hutson finishes his
reporting on the political apathy in rave culture by saying, “there is almost
no political activism in the rave scene. Ravers do little more than attend late
night and early morning parties in out-of-the-way places” (2000: 45).
Rawnsley, a previous editor of XLR8R magazine, is not
big fan of political activism because ostensibly the rave movement operates
outside . . . of the mainstream and acts as an antithesis to political
to Velocity Editor-in-Chief, Tim Summers the dance culture is, “underneath the
radar of popular consciousness” (2000: 8). These dance culture magazine
editors see the dance culture as truly subcultural in that it “operates
outside of the existing political system.” Either “underneath” or
“outside,” the club culture is not within the majoritarian social sphere. He
believes that it is difficult for dance cultural politics to be acknowledged. He
does not say that raving is apolitical. “As an antithesis of political
demonstration” yet outside of the political system, the dance culture
experience exists in a liminal alterity.
comments are similar to those voiced by Hakim Bey, a writer often quoted in the
dance culture for concepts like the Temporary Autonomous Zone (T.A.Z.), his
notions about neo-paganism and the politics of ecstasy. Rawnsley follows Bey who
says, “stop wasting time and energy petitioning the authorities for permission
to do what we’re doing and simply get on with it” (Bey 2000).
The following sections suggest that the dance culture is making itself
the Dangers inherent in Recreating
reduction organizations attempt to reduce the negative products of drugs use.
According to harm-reduction groups, advocating for education and safe-settings
are effective methods in reducing drug-induced dangers. One of the largest
dangers in the dance culture is the quality of drugs available. Many of the
drugs that people are buying at raves are adulterated with cheaper more
dangerous substances. To combat the growing threats to drug users,
harm-reduction groups have began to educate the dance culture about the
importance of rest, safe sex, ear-protection and hydration. The most
controversial task dance culture harm reduction group perform is the testing of
“Ecstasy” pills for MDMA content.
city officials do not support harm reduction. Kim Stanford is a registered nurse
who heads up The Toronto Raver Information Project. She says, “the majority of
politicians and policy makers are really reticent to advocate funding for harm
reduction drug testing” (Fritz 1999: 219). As Nigel Tasko, a promoter for The
Alien Mental Association, says, “it’s time that the police and the city
councils started working with promoters to ensure that the venues are safe”
(Fritz 1999: 234). In remarks representative of sentiments at the state capitol,
House Minority Leader Ted Hobbs (R-Albuquerque) told the Albuquerque Tribune
that “ . . . harm reduction policies and giving sterile needles to people who
are violating the law, I just can't sign on to that" (Gallagos 2000)
city officials have peered benevolently upon the dance culture. Toronto may be
uneasy about advocating hard reduction, but the conclusions of the collaboration
between Toronto activists and city officials were in favor of a harm-reduction
methodology. They stated, “we the jury agree find that there is a need for
safe venues for raves, and severe restrictions on rave promoters will defeat the
intent of these recommendations”
is the largest and most visible harm-reduction group in the United States. They
set up booths at the Democratic National Convention in 2000. They have been
featured on 20/20, 60 Minutes and local and national newspaper presses
throughout the country. DanceSafe distributes home Ecstasy test kits, operates
pill-testing booths at raves and clubs, and contracts with a DEA-approved lab in
Sacramento to analyze pills for dangerous adulterants such as PMA and DXM.
groups exist wherever a rave tradition exists. Ravesafe is a harm reduction
group in South Africa. Their safe house project promotes safe guidelines for
club owners and rave promoters. 80 different pills are screened a week by a
Holland company. “A test culture is starting,” said Jason Taylor,
Bluelight.nu’s administrator. Medecins
du Monde, an international public health advocate in France, tests 95 pills
and capsules per week (Schone and Prince 2000: 140).
per the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the club culture believes that
they have the right to peaceably assemble and express themselves in licensed
environments. There is growing opposition to their parties. The dance culture is
currently mobilizing to fight the growing city oppositions against
their cultural practices.
Right to dance movements are formulating throughout North America to
protest for the right to have massive and/or club all-night festivities. In
Holland and Canada, these organizations are tolerated on par with other civil
rights groups. In other places like America and Britain, there is strong
opposition to the dance culture.
cities where a thriving dance culture exists have seen a rash of anti-dance
initiatives. Chicago and Orlando’s new anti-rave ordinances “attack an
entire culture” and ignores the First Amendments (Costakis, Dmitri and
Littlepage 2000: 30). Baltimore and DC areas also have official anti-rave task
forces. Miami Beach politicians have tried to stop dancing after 5 a.m., which
would mean the death of the after-hours “juice bars.” Nobody is allowed to
dance after 2:00 a.m. in neither Kansas City nor New York City.
promoters, DJs and property owners can be fined up to $10,000 for involvement in
an unlicensed party. The most nightlife they are allowed is from the juice bar
license, which restricts activity-taking place after 2 a.m. Djing is Not a Crime
organized as a response to the City of Chicago's
clampdown on "raves" and "underground parties" via an
ordinance that was passed by the City Council 50-0. This ordinance puts
an end to the all-night parties that are the cornerstone of the dance culture.
Gin, spokesperson for Djing is not a Crime, thinks this majoritarian opposition
is a difficult growing pain and in the end it will strengthen the dance culture.
He believes the club culture’s demands will be met. “Eventually, this will
take what we all do and legitimize it as part of youth culture,” he says (Kotler
2000: 68). The “boon” of legitimization will welcome commercialization. As
we outlined in the section on latent politics, mainstream acceptance is a fatal
July of 1999, concerned members of the dance culture formed the San Francisco
Late Night Coalition. The object of their posse is “to protect, preserve, and
promote San Francisco’s late-night culture.” The have organized numerous
rallies and supported a mayoral candidate forum. As Woods says, “the rave
community is becoming more political as it builds coalitions with progressive
politicians, public health officials and even police administrators.” (Wood
2000: 29). The Right to Dance Coalition is a collaboration of San Francisco
activists, Dancesafe and Djing is Not a Crime. It is an on-line resource center
that is organizing the national movement.
New Orleans a local music promoter and DJ face up to 20 years in prison and
$500,000 in fines simply for staging a dance culture event. U.S. Attorney Jordan
contends that the State Palace was a “crack house.” Evidence includes
pacifiers, glowsticks, water consumption and certain dance steps. The A.C.L.U is
opposing the DEA in this case because they are targeting the providers of a
certain type of music. The Electronic Music Defense Fund has arisen to gather
funds to pay for this case (Cloud 2001).
Protest parties are designed to bring public attention to dance culture issues. These concerns include environmental degradation, the marginalization of gays, women and minorities, and the civil right to cognitive multiplicity. A party called Rave for Choice recently donated its proceeds to local abortion clinics and a national pro-choice woman’s group. In Boulder, Rave for the Rain Forest raised money for a number of ecological organizations. A group called Raves to Benefit Aids has raised over $75,000. Raves in Detroit, New York and San Francisco, called “Unleash the Queen” were specifically designed to raise awareness of homophobia. The Moontribe of L. A. played a benefit to prevent nuclear waste from being dumped in Ward Valley, California. These philanthropic activities are good examples of the dance culture’s concern with creating a healthier community (Levy and Miller 1992).
is home to the rave movement; clubbing is a major industry in the United
Kingdom. Nevertheless, Britain has been attempting to break the dance culture
for well over a decade. The Britain Criminal Justice Act of 1994 outlawed raves
and similar gatherings. The pro-dance coalition, Reclaim the Streets, protested
these amendments with public raves. A protest against the Criminal Justice Bill
was held in Hyde Park in London. Almost five thousand people filled the park
with their dancing and techno music. After a squirmish, the police retracted.
Later, they surrounded the park in riot gear. In 1997, Tory MP Barry Legge
promoted a bill that would give local police the power to shut down any club
where there was evidence of drug use. Like the New Orleans case, “evidence”
could mean providing free drinking water (Fritz 1999: 221).
1998, a busy Oxford road was blocked with a sound and light system. A thousand
dancers made police interjection impossible. Also in 1998, Reclaim the Streets
blocked the M41, a major highway. A truckload of sand was dumped in the middle
of the street creating an ad hoc sandbox where a gaggle of children preceded to
play. On the outskirts of this sand box a coterie of six thousand dancers
gathered. Subsequently, similar events have occurred in The Netherlands, Hungary
and Finland. The political activity reached climax for the 1998 season with the
International Dance Party, which consisted of protest parties staged
simultaneously in over twenty major cities around the world (Fritz 1999: 222).
dance culture musicians are politically minded. For example, Beta Bodega
Coalition makes music about 3rd World marginalization, the Dutch label
Stallplaat examines the techno/indigenous interface, and Germany Mille Plateaux’
makes psycho-acoustic art for the polically minded.
explicit politics of harm-reduction, the right to dance, and drug policy reform
often coalesce into one Hydra-headed organism. For example, in July 2000,
Moontribe joined forces with the Right to Dance Coalition, Dancesafe, and L. A.
Mayoral Candidate Francis DellaVeccia to organize a peaceful rally during the
Democratic National Convention. This was called the Gathering of the Tribes
conference. Discussions included outdoor gatherings on public land, harm
reduction, drug policy reform, sacred space and community building.
The rally focused on, “the failed war on drugs, and the recent and
steady erosion of the right to assembly” said spokesperson Lynn Hasty. Richard
Glen Boire, Esq., of the Alchemind Society spoke about the therapeutic potential
of MDMA as well as the puritan element within the American psyche. The DRCNet
described strategies for on-line organizing drug policy reform and suggested
using the same technique to fight the current rave crackdown (XLR8R rev.69).
Explicit Politics: Drug Policy
drug policy reformation groups look at the social consequences, law and history
of the war on drugs. Drug use, particularly the use of MDMA, is important to the
dance culture. Wherever it rears its warhead, the war on drugs combats
individuality, indigenous rights and mutliculturalism. The dance culture opposes
the war on drugs because it seeks to limit the freedom of speech, cognitive
liberty and cultural novelty.
is observable in the Estopinal case, the proponents of the war on drugs are attempting to
close musical events in their pursuit of certain drugs and certain profiles
related to certain drugs. Drug policy reform groups within the dance culture are
reticent to typecast MDMA as a malevolent narcotic, worthy of Schedule I status.
MDMA has a rich legacy of being a useful substance in counseling and
psychotherapy (Saunders 1995; Beck and Rosenbaum 1994).
of MDMA tablets submitted to DEA laboratories have risen from a total of
1,054,973 in 1999 to 3,045,041 in 2000. (Marshall 2000). The Tallahassee Florida
Operation Heat Rave arrested more than 1200 people at 57 clubs and raves across
the state. In October in Newark, New Jersey 106 pounds of ecstasy and 200,000
Buddha pills were found two months apart. 61 people in four states went down in
a case that federal agents use to bolster their theory of a
ingredients like PMK (piperonylmethylketon) come from the “darwinian chaos of
the post-Soviet era.” Russian ingredients travel through Germany, to Holland
and Belgium labs, where they are then shipped internationally via French or
German airways. American markets receive the majority, but a good percentage is
retained in Germany for European use. The Bundesskiminalamt
(the German FBI), estimates that 90 to 99 percent of German E originates in the
Netherlands (Schone and Prince 2001). The US DEA says that 90% of American
Ecstasy is Belgium Ecstasy.
US federal government spends 17 billion to militantly combat the drug trade. Of
that sum The National Institute on Drug Abuse receives $54 million to conduct
their “club-drug” campaign.
Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics is a nonprofit international
organization working in the public interest to promote and protect fundamental
civil liberties. Cognitive liberty “is the fundamental right to multiple modes
of thought, alternative states of consciousness, and individual mental
autonomy.” Cognitive liberty includes entheogenic insight and alternative
states of awareness –inspired by either dancing or drug use.
were two bills in Congress that were halted by the help of the Center for
Cognitive Liberty and Ethics. The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act and the
Club Drug Anti-Proliferation Act. Provisions of these acts would make it a
federal crime to discuss drugs on the Internet. These provisions, like the
greater war on drugs, are attempts to criminalize and marginalize a minority
culture, in this case the youth.
Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics analysis revealed that equating Ecstasy
with methamphetamine for sentencing purposes would create an incentive for
dealers to sell adulterated Ecstasy. On September 27, 2000, when the club drug
provisions were attached to the Children’s Health Act, the sentencing
provisions were removed. The
Alchemind Society’s Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics was the only
organization to produce and distribute professional legal analysis on the flawed
Ecstasy and club drug provisions.
I have defined the club culture as a technological/drug/music synthesis. The
technological component is visible through the dance cultures dexterity with
personal computers. Many design their own web pages as witnessed in the
thousands of web pages dedicated to electronic music and the different facets of
the dance culture. Many of the dance culture sites have links to drug
information sites. “Culture” is increasingly a link choice on the electronic
music sites. The technological communication utilized by the dance culture
fosters multi-subculturalism and inclusivity across musical boundaries. To
create a law that would sever the technological connection between drug
dilettantism and electronic music would hinder the free speech functioning of
the dance culture.
O’Connell, retired surgeon and representative for Media Awareness Project
states that though these provisions have been struck there is still more to be
concerned with, “The Supreme Court has gotten used to giving away our civil
rights on behalf of the drug war,” he says. “The federal government’s
record on drug policy shows clearly that our civil rights are in grave danger
whenever Congress is writing anti-drug legislation.” (Kotler p. 67)
Mixing with the Insoluble Generations
First Amendment is intended to create a barrier between the two concepts of
church and state. The United States of America merges church and state. This
corporate merger propagates a Protestant morality. This civil religion creates a
majoritarian/generational bias that diminishes neutrality when courts address
minority cultural issues.
to the mass majority, it is the moral responsibility of citizens of the United
States to make money. The mass morality current in the United States supports a
form of nationalism. Religion in nationalistic societies is integrated into the
political economy. The United States’ civil religion mandates cognitive
conformity and free-enterprising development.
dance culture threatens to undermine the morality of the civilly faithful by
making hedonism and/or political activism attractive as viable forms of praxis.
Because the U. S. civil religion informs and directs the bureaucracy, the
subculture warrants congressional and legislative opposition. In other words,
the public becomes morally offended by a subculture/minority and the burocracy
seeks to suppress the minority. The public elects city officials, police chiefs
and agency directors who attempt to put a stop to the reveling minority, their
substances and spaces.
ruling class of this hierarchy consists of wealthy figureheads from the mass
majority --who also own the means for resource extraction and/or communication.
These industries have the power to control the dissemination of multiple belief
systems. Multivocality threatens to undermine the structures that support the
civil religion. Those in power delegate judiciary privilege to those who support
the religion of economy.
judiciary and criminal systems are assigned the task of upholding the legitimacy
and the doctrines of this civil religion. Conformity and a desire for American
economic growth are majoritarian-generationally dictated. The judiciary and
criminal systems perpetuate two powers: xenophobia and marginalization. This
discriminatory trend results in incrimination based on cognitive and cultural
differences. In the dance culture example this tendency manifests in a form of
ageism, the youth as a minority are being criminalized because their activities
are not widely practiced or integrated into the civil religion.
First Amendment was invented to insure that the United States remained a land
fertile for alternative modes of being and believing. Its elocution is explicit.
Our citizens have a right to assemble to listen to music; and the freedom of
speech to communicate through a kinetic language.
a product of an institutionalized morality, the US judicial system exhibits a
tendency towards generation-centric laws and judgements. This tendency may
manifest in a denial of rights to the American youth. If the dance culture is to
survive it must prove itself effective in mediating the majority’s impulses
dance culture may survive along its present circuitous route if moralities
change and are codified into law. It may be said that the search for insight and
delirium, through intoxication and dancing, may be a pan-cultural youth
tradition. If so, the dance culture and its resistance are another manifestation
of the tension inherent between a new generation asserting its individuality and
political viability by subverting mainstream morality.
generation has to feel like they can be free to express themselves and to rebel
against the establishment. The rave scene is history repeating itself. Only the
music is better...”
--Albert Mancuso aka DJ Science (Fritz 1999)
Alchemind Society: The International Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics
Electronic document http://www.alchemind.org/index.htm. Accessed April 22, 2001.
America. London: Verso.
Jerome and Marsha Rosenbaum
Pursuit of Ecstasy: The MDMA Experience. Albany: State University of New York
Against “Legalization.” Journal for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics 1:1.
Ecstasy Crackdown. Time. April 9. Electronic document http://www/time.co,/tome/magazine/printout/
0,8816,104604,00.html. Accessed April 15, 2001.
Electronic document. http://www.clubdrugs.org/,
accessed April 26, 2001.
Electronic document. http://www.dancesafe.org/,
accessed April 24, 2001.
Drugs of Concern : MDMA Electronic document http://www.dea.gov/concern/mdma/mdma.htm
accessed April 24, 2001.
Gilles, and Felix Guattari.
A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Brian Massumi, trans.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
is not a Crime
Electronic Document. http://www.djingisnotacrime.org/, accessed April 24, 2001.
George and Iara Lee
Modulations: Cinema for the Ear. (film)
Rave Culture: An Insider’s Overview. Canada: Small Fry Press.
The Rave: Spititual Healing in Modern Western Subcultures. Anthropological
2000 Drug Revamp gets wary Reception. Albuquerque Tribune. Electronic document,
Room with No View. Revolution, October 1.3: 63-69.
Ecstasy: A Study of some Secular and Religious Experiences, The Cresset Press:
Dan with T. Christian Miller
‘Rave’ Parties Turn to Social Issues (Psychedelic goes political).
Electronic document, http://taz3.hperreal,org/raves/media/articles/political,
accessed March 11.
Clubbing: Dancing, Ecstasy and Vitality. Ben Malbon. London. Routledge Press.
Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties. London:
Results of the Mixmag Drugs Survey 2000. Mixmag, February 117:54-65
Ethnomusicology of Techno An ethnomusicological investigation of Techno/Rave.
Electronic document http://www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs/housemus.html
Electronic document. http://www.moontribe.org/,
accessed April 24, 2001.
FSU at RNC and DNC. XLR8R, 45: 114.
Lest We Forget. XLR8R, 47: 4.
Beats, and Bullets in the Promised Land, Spin, March: 102-111.
Generation Esctasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. New York:
to Dance Coalition
Electronic document. http://www.righttodance.org/,
accessed April 24, 2001.
Francisco Late Night Coalition
Electronic document. http://www.sflnc.com/,
accessed aprin 24, 2001.
Ecstasy: Dance, Trance and Transformation.
San Francisco: Quick Time Trading.
Mark and David Prince
Adventures in E-Commerce. Spin, June 116-120.
Spinning Ecstasy: Toronto Ranks Low in Drug’s Use. Electronic document,
http:///.eye.net/eye/issues/issues_06.08.00/news/ecstasy.html, accessed March 3.
Ranting or Raving. Velocity, 5.4:8
Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Hanover: Wesleyan
Conferring with the Moontribes. XLR8R, 43: 29.
 Rave is supposed to deconstruct dualities, especially collapsing the past and the future into a singular "modern primitive." The oppositions between technology and spirituality, the primal body and the higher mind, and neo-tribalism and global humanism, are all supposed to "implode" at the rave, resulting in a "technoshamanism" where the DJ serves as the initiator of the people into a sort of participation mystique where they tune into the "vibe" of Gaia.
informants utilize Christian theological banter. In comparing raves to
Christian churches, they are simulating a mainstream institution. This
analogy is incongruous with Hutson’s conclusions because as it is
manifestsedfor the majority of American Christians, the Church is devoid of
the signs of shamanism, experiential therapeutics and techniques of ecstasy.
If the ravers are experiencing these universal shamanic experiences, that
have no parallels in modern Western society, then why are they using
Christian rhetoric? The answer is: The ravers are adopting this vernacular
because they are attempting to relate the experience to the researcher by
exploiting commonly understood icons. If authentically experienced, in
classic shamanic fashion, the experience should be devoid of qualitative
quotes Green who says that, “In actual effect, this is the creation of a .
. . religion without theological foundation or unified expression.”
Green’s quote supports my argument that yes something sublime is occurring
at raves, but no, we are not yet able to compare this spirituality to an
archaic revival or to fundamentalist Christians, New Age channels and
For various reasons, including age and degree of monetary self-sufficiency,
clubbers are more conditioned by mainstream influences than ravers, but both
venues continue to blossom in popularity in part because of the
opportunities for resistance.