Faculty Advisor

Stockdale, Jonathan

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2020


Burning Man is an arts gathering that has taken place every year up until 2020 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. The gathering brought together more than 70,000 “burners” in 2017 to create a massive community for nine days on a dry lake bed. The temporary city provides a space to explore and more deeply understand humanity and humanity’s relationship to religion. The event is unique, it is the participants’ responsibility to put on the show. Themed camps, art displays, and interactive settings are created by burners, for burners. A climactic burning of “The Man,” a massive wooden figure, takes place on the Saturday before Labor Day. In order to dig deeper into our understanding of this eclectic, one-of-a-kind, event I have employed Michael Taussig’s essay Transgression. Burning Man is transgressive in three distinct ways: to the individual, to society, and Burning Man transgresses itself. Questions of whether or not Burning Man is truly transgressive or remains within the boundaries of society also rise in this paper. Not only does Transgression help us understand Burning Man, but Burning Man also helps us understand the essay, Transgression, in a more complete manner. This is possible because Burning Man puts Taussig’s ideas into conversation with an event that occurs outside of a book, in the physical world. It is important for us to understand the idea of transgression, because it is through transgression that society changes and grows. I will give an explanation of Taussig’s idea of transgression before using it to dive deeper into our understanding of Burning Man as a cultural event.




University of Puget Sound