Burning Man is a festival that has been rapidly growing and changing since its small inception at Baker Beach, California. Over the past 30 years the festival morphed into a booming cultural icon where every year 70,000 attendees make their way to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. While there have been studies, articles, and films about Burning Man, this research functions to provide an in-depth examination and discussion of the cultural practices and messages at the festival and what this may tell us about our society outside of the event. Through ethnographic methods and a theoretical lens, this research examines gifting, sociability, play, art, spirituality and capitalism’s economic influence on the event. I conclude that Burning Man is a spectacle and a reactionary microcosm of our society, but that it is ultimately still a special place where art and play can flourish.


Tierney, Thomas


Sociology and Anthropology


Burning Man, Sociology, Debord, Art, Play, Spontaneity

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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