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Running head: RAVE IDENTITY 1

Rave Identity and Self-reflexive Compartmentalization: An Exploration of Rituals

and Beliefs of Contemporary Rave Culture

Ashley Lynn Cordes

Hawaii Pacific University

A thesis presented to the faculty of the Department of Communication at Hawaii Pacific

University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
Master of Arts in Communication

December 2012

© Ashley Lynn Cordes

UMI Number: 1534602

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Rave Identity and Self-reflexive Compartmentalization: An Exploration of Rituals

and Beliefs of Contemporary Rave Culture

The thesis submitted by Ashley Lynn Cordes has been reviewed and approved by the
Hawai’i Pacific University College of Communication.

______________________________________ ________________________

Matthew George, Ph.D., Thesis Advisor Date

Associate Professor, Department of Communication

______________________________________ ________________________

Serena Hashimoto, Ph.D., Reader Date

Associate Professor, Department of Communication

_______________________________________ ________________________

Topher Erickson, Reader Date

Instructor, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 – Introduction..................................................................................................6
Description and Background of Topic..............................................................7
History of raving............................................................................ 8
Ravers connection to hippies..........................................................9
Fractures in the Movement............................................................................. 12
Australia as Case Study.................................................................................. 13
Purpose of Study............................................................................................ 13
Importance of Study....................................................................................... 14
Relevance to Communication Studies............................................................ 15
Research Questions and Hypotheses.............................................................. 18
Summary of Chapter...................................................................................... 18

Chapter 2 – Literature Review...................................................................................... 18

Ethnography and Raves.................................................................................. 20
Rave ethnography as a means to discuss MDMA....................... 22
Cultural Rave Literature................................................................................. 24
Declines.......................................................................................................... 27
Spirituality...................................................................................................... 28
Politics ............................................................................................................30
Summary of Chapter……………………...................................................... 32

Chapter 3 – Methodology 33
Defense of Qualitative Methods..................................................................... 33
Research Design............................................................................................ 33
Participant Observation.................................................................................. 34
Criteria for Interviewee Selection ..................................................................35
Interview Guide.............................................................................................. 37
Questionnaire................................................................................................. 37
Summary of Methodological Implementation and Analysis.......................... 37
Interview Sample............................................................................................ 38
Results and Themes........................................................................................ 39
Theories.......................................................................................................... 40
Burke and Identification.............................................................. 40
Interaction ritual chains and collective effervescence................. 40
Emotional entrainment and IRC.................................................. 41
Ethnography as Methodology........................................................................ 42
Speech codes and raving: PLUR................................................. 44
Summary of Chapter...................................................................................... 44

Chapter 4 – Results and Analysis.................................................................................. 44


Participant Overview...................................................................................... 46
Findings and Ethnographic Key Themes....................................................... 47
The “Feeling” of the music.......................................................... 47
The experience of the DJs........................................................... 51
Possible forms of alienation........................................................ 53
Participation in rituals.................................................................. 54
Use of ritual artifacts....................................................................55
The experience of collective sharing........................................... 58
Clothing and style........................................................................ 59
Perceptions of identity................................................................. 62
Commercialization....................................................................... 64
Chapter Conclusion........................................................................................ 67

Chapter 5 – Discussion and Conclusion........................................................................ 68

Findings.......................................................................................................... 69
Identity as temporary and transitory............................................ 70
Cultural distinctions..................................................................... 72
Cultural nostalgia......................................................................... 74
Rituals, beliefs, and identity........................................................ 76
Perceptions of commercialization................................................78
Limitations due to sample........................................................... 80
Recommendations based on findings and limitations.....................................81
Recommendations based on demographics and methodology....................... 82
Conclusions.................................................................................................... 84
Contemporary cultural moment and raving..................................84

References........................................................................................................................ 86

Appendix – Interview guide........................................................................................... 92



This thesis illuminated various findings regarding identity by studying rave

culture. Identity as more fluid and compartmentalized in order to satiate alternative needs

is presented by including a discussion surrounding ravers’ beliefs, rituals, and notions of

collective effervescence. This thesis provided an ethnographic focus by observing rave

scenes of Australia and drew from the experiences of Australian ravers in a subsector of

Generation Y with narrative based interviews. The consideration of theories regarding

identification, interaction ritual chains, and concepts of collective effervescence ideas of

negotiation gave theoretical insight throughout. This study found that participants

negotiated their identities as ravers to be rather temporary and transitory in order to

repetitively disconnect for short periods from their mainstream lifestyles. Compensation

and a more universal want for the seemingly juxtaposed desires of acceptance and

uniqueness are attributable to these more separate constructions and maintenances of

multiple identities. Rave participants were markedly aware of the collective feelings that

they sought. However, the lack of social and political activism in participants presented a

lack of continuity with previous countercultures. Ravers hinted that commercialization,

often influenced by nostalgia, affected the scene and rituals. The researcher recommends

future studies focus on how or if the possible link between commercialization and

capitalist expansion of raves manipulates various beliefs and identity markers. Overall,

this study showed through an interpretive framework how rave rituals and beliefs, which

center on practices of collectivity, inform a more involved view on identity.

Keywords: Rave, identity, collective effervescence, commercialization, PLUR


Rave Identity and Self-reflexive Compartmentalization: An Exploration of Rituals

and Beliefs of Contemporary Rave Culture

“Although, people don’t feel the need to give their superhuman power a name or

personality, when a rave ‘goes off’, everyone has a shared experience of

connectedness…people can feel like one being with a shared purpose and direction”

(Fritz, 1999, p. 179). This quest for “oneness” associated with rave culture is notorious

for creating a collective effervescent feeling of unanimity. The feeling is created by

engagement in rave rituals and shaped by an ideological creed that promotes partying,

peace, and love. Transcendence and the ensuing feelings are at the heart of the rave

experience for many. Uncovering the artifacts and rituals that lead to this phenomenon

and how this all shapes identity is at the core of this study. Australian rave scenes were

analyzed by applying theories regarding identity and ritual processes. Results were

collected through interviews and ethnographic observation. The rituals that emerged and

how they led to beliefs and identity were closely studied.

Collective effervescence is the shared feeling experienced by a group at such

events as religious assemblies and concerts (Durkeim, 1912/1995). Durkheim

(1912/1995) stated that the phenomenon is the perceived energy that comes from a

gathering of people acting in ways they may not normally in their day-to-day lives. The

feeling is inherently communal and is “energetic, electric, ecstatic; an essentially non-

rational affective state or experience; ephemeral or temporary in nature, and a possibility

source of great cultural creativity” (Olvasen, 2004, p. 86). Olaveson (2004) stated that

ravers have in fact coined their own word for their feelings of collective effervescence,

which they refer to as the vibe. The vibe describes the feeling when ravers are in sync,

enjoying the music and sharing the rhythms and feelings of love.

The quest for this transcendence and rave cultural immersion involves various

individual and collective processes and engagements in rituals and beliefs that inform

identity. This has led the researcher to develop a research design that will culminate with

a detailed discussion regarding the complexities of these elements and their relationships.

Identity as a present-day rave will be explored by understanding consubstantiation,

negotiation, compartmentalization, compensation, continuity and discontinuity, notions

of nostalgia, and views of the contemporary cultural moment.


Through a review of existing literature highlighting rave ethnographies,

collections of data, and analysis using theoretical backing, rave identify and beliefs are

explored. Interviews were conducted with ravers who participated in various rave rituals

in order to shed light on the process of attaining collective effervescence and the agency

and purpose behind such rituals. Primary data was collected at two raves, one in

Queensland, Australia and the other in Sydney, Australia. The raves were observed to

study the experience of identification amongst ravers. Using Collins’ (2004) model for

interaction ritual chains, the ritual ingredients and outcomes were examined. Burke’s

(1969) theory of identification was applied in order to understand how ravers identify as

individuals or as a collective culture. Because these events were appropriate for the

ethnographic method of data collection, a qualitative approach was employed.

Description and Background of Topic


History of raving. Rave parties mostly originated in the 1980s from acid house

parties and were based on frameworks of psytrance from the 1960s movements (Ott &

Herman, 2003). People danced all night at these parties as a form of art and socialization,

usually to live music played by disk jockeys (DJs). The type of music played is typically

techno, house, trance and electronic genre music. Dubstep as well as drum and bass, with

altered rhythmic qualities, have grown increasingly popular in the rave scene. All of

these elements are used in conjunction with laser and smoke machines to create a mood

and psychedelic vibe to put the raver in a type of psychological trance. This study

explores the communicative dimension of this state and how it is performed or

experienced by ravers.

The United Kingdom was noted for being the first hot spot and originator of raves

and in the late 1980s raves spread to Europe, particularly Goa, India and then to North

America (St. John, 2009a). America, San Francisco and Los Angeles are noted for

having the most massive raves. Though locational differences exist the common essential

qualities of raves are the music, dancing, lasers, drug use, neon color schema, all night

duration, and light shows. Light shows are when ravers use gloves with LED lights

attached to them and move or dance their fingers in a way that is pleasurable to other

ravers that are on Ecstasy (MDMA). Additionally, raving is considered to be a very

corporal spiritual process by St. John (2009a) because of the purification that occurs

when one is purging themselves of fluids by dancing for up to 12 hours and taking


The partying scene espouses themes of transformation and “the idea that the

dance space functions as an inclusive site for various forms of personal negotiation of

experiences of community, transformation, and the sacred…” (Beck & Lynch, 2009, p.

352). The euphoric connection is achieved through such negotiations as momentary

personal connections through music, dance, and collective unity. Important to note is that

the esoteric spiritual implications found in post millennium raving can actually be traced

back to the 1960s (Beck & Lynch, 2009). The fact that both cultures share so many

esoteric spiritual elements gave rise to the argument that ravers have progressed yet co-

opted many elements of hippie culture.

Ravers connection to hippies. Hippies not only created their own subculture but

also came to be a definitive element of the era in which they existed. Their presence in

the ‘60s as well as in the ‘70s made them cultural icons. Ravers emerged later but

retained or negotiated many elements of their hippie predecessors. Like any culture,

certain rituals, symbols, myths, and overarching ideologies became linked to them and

while they are two separate cultures they share many similarities.

The reasons are as follows a) hippies provided group frameworks that ravers still

display today, b) the discursive frameworks that ravers internalize morphed from hippie

principles of “peace and love” which applied to their anti-war positions, c) both cultures

emphasize altered and heighted states of consciousness. One of the core values that

hippies and ravers share is the social want for togetherness, which is often actualized

through gatherings, and festivals. Burke (1969) and Durkheim (1912/1995) suggested this

is true for all people; however, it seems to be especially salient for hippies and ravers. In

the 1960s “within the US and UK in particular, alternative enclaves sprouted up in which

fellow seekers could manifest utopian visions, conduct experiments with the mind, body

and spirit, exchange knowledge, trade goods and live alternative lifestyles” (St John,

2009a, p. 51). According to St. John (2009a) these hippie gatherings provided the

frameworks for later raver generations as evidenced by the 2008 Boom Rave festival.

“Operating for twenty-three hours a day for six days, and catering for around 5,000

people at any one time, the Main Floor features high-performance audio, lighting and

water misting systems designed for enhancing expressive/transcendent states” (St. John,

2009a, p. 36). The parallels suggest that ravers naturally progressed or adopted the

organization of the gatherings, retained the presence of transcendent and mind-altering

states, and incorporated their genre of music.

Secondly, the principles at the core of both cultures are very similar. Rave culture

expresses their values with the message of PLUR. PLUR was a term coined in the 1990s

to delineate the rules of raves; it means peace, love, unity and respect (Ott & Herman,

2003). The slogan of hippie culture is indeed peace and love (Lattin, 2004). If PLUR is

deconstructed it becomes clear that peace and love, the first two principles, are borrowed

from hippie culture. Rave culture took the principles and morphed them to be their own.

Thomas (1997) concluded this by stating the use of the terms and meanings of peace,

love, unity and respect are quite similar to the hippie mantra of peace and love.

Lastly, both ravers and hippies emphasize altered states of perception as a means

of consciousness and experience gaining. “The ravers are a natural progression from the

hippies and represent the Kesey school of experiencing the world (albeit an artificial one)

under the influence of psychedelics. Like the '60s acid tests, the group experience is

[what is] important here” (Phillips & Scott, 2011, p. 1). New raver states of perception

now include heightened consciousness gaining through audiovisual stimulation achieved

through laser and special effect technologies linked to event production.


Similar too is the increased use of drugs in lieu of alcoholic beverages. “Much

like the hippie cultures… it would seem that legal drugs like alcohol are used by clubbers

to symbolize the achievement of adult status’, while illicit drugs are used to signify a

rejection of adult culture” (Thornton, 1996, p. 21). Essentially this posits that both

hippies and club cultures have been known to reject aspects of adult culture. They both

grasp for the illicit and often reject the legal in search of something more intense. Both

cultures share the belief in peace and love and emphasize heightened states of

consciousness and togetherness, which has sparked interest in their similarities.

Nostalgia, as Davis (1979) characterized it as a complex yearning for past in other

cultures and their own, has complicated present day ravers’ ideas of their cultural

realities. Ravers adopted elements from hippies, punks and other subcultures; however,

they engage in rituals all their own.

Kandi. Ravers engage in the act of exchanging kandi, brightly colored plastic

beaded bracelets, with strangers in order to express their heightened feelings of social and

cosmic effervescence achieved by the act and completion of the adjoined ritual. This

ephemeral performance is one of the many rituals ravers engage in. This act takes place

in an atmosphere of electronic music, lasers and swarms of costume adorned masses; a

virtual dreamland for the 20-something liberal techno enthusiast.

Kandi exchange has a typical manner of being completed and like any ritual there

are rules that predicate how the process occurs normally. The exchange symbolizes for

the intended audience the tenets of PLUR. This usually only occurs in the intended and

negotiated audiences, with PLUR often disregarded in the contested audience. One raver

will interlock their hand with the other raver’s hand in order make a peace sign, next they

will use their hands to form a heart which represents love, lastly, both palms are flattened

together to represent unity. The next step is the actual bracelet exchange where the

fingers of both hands are interlaced and each member pulls a bracelet from one hand to

the other’s to represent respect. This ritual reinforces the tenets that are important for the

culture and ends with the members sharing something about their identity.

Fractures in the Movement

As literature suggests, raving is becoming more mainstreamed, the purposes by

which participants engage in raving have shifted dramatically. In stark contrast to the use

of raving as a means to achieving spiritual re-enchantment and self-actualization

Goulding, Shankar, and Elliot (2002) stated that raving is a phenomenon that is

alternatively a market for escapism and narcissism. These communications,

consumption, and market culture specialists argue that raves exist because of the

emergence of a post-modern identity. “Examples of the latter include increasing rejection

of political authority, increasing political instability, disintegrating social institutions (the

church, marriage, family and workplace), and the fragmentation of the self” (p. 264).

Their data collected through ethnographic observations at dance clubs in Britain claim to

support the idea that fragmentation in identity exists which leads some into raving and the

engagement in “hedonism” and postmodern consumption (Goulding, Shankar, & Elliot,


Australia as a Case Study

Some rave micro-cultures have a particular way to rebut the arguments that raves

are consumerist but rather more spiritual. St. John (2001) emphasized that Australia has

the earth and natural based qualities for raving and psytrance. The doofs often occur on

large bands of undeveloped land and are enclaves for this rave culture to express itself

freely and in touch with nature (St. John, 2001). This suggests that the spiritual and

earthly dimensions are highlighted in outdoor raves, or rave derived scenes, that are

commonly referred to as doofs.

Despite Australian doofs being presented as a more spiritual and earthly form of

expression, Siokou & Moore (2008) conducted research that suggested

commercialization has in fact occurred in the Australian rave scene particularly in

Melbourne. Four changes that occur when raves become commercialized include the

types of attendees, the atmosphere and vibe, and drug related practices (Siokou & Moore,

2008). The idea of a nostalgic period of raving was explored and used to interpret the

finding that ravers they study often hint at a yearning towards the past, a period of raving

seemingly unaffected by commercialization (Siokou & Moore, 2008).

Raves attended for this study ended up being more popular or mainstreamed and

less based on the earthly, spiritual dimensions. The researcher desired to study what were

the most typical rave experiences in Australia and to understand the rituals and beliefs of

the constituent rave culture. The research was conducted in Australia and participants

discussed many of their rave experiences in order to provide a more comprehensive


Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study was to find out about identity by examining rituals and

the elements that come together in order to produce it. The feelings of oneness that ravers

so often characterize their experience in the culture as were of importance. This study

looked at communicative behaviors as an artistic and cultural expression that can be

analyzed in order to deconstruct higher ideological messages. These are experiences that

portrayed how young adults find deviations from the mainstream in order to express

peace, love, unity, and respect and connect to one another. This study sought to find out

just why and how this occurs. The purpose also became to better understand what

participants perceived about the idea of rave commercialization.

There is much rich social interaction and social contribution artistically,

intellectually, and spiritually that will be lost if it is not archived and studied. Aspects of

raving including music are slowly becoming a part of a more popular culture. This study

is designed to understand if behaviors and identity have been negotiated and if this may

be a generational phenomenon. Rave culture includes vast experiences much different

than mainstream society due to involvement in liberal and often highly artistic,

expressive, and collectively charged behaviors and activities. These expressions both

verbal and nonverbal are highly symbolic. The notions of oneness and togetherness are

indeed forces that are worthy of contemplation on an academic level to help contribute to

a discussion on identity.

As rave participants view raving as becoming more commercial and audiences are

changing, raving is in the midst of gradual transition. This could be in part due to

participants’ views on nostalgia. This period of transition is important to study because

the changes or maintenance of beliefs, rituals, and collective identity could be lost or

glossed over. It is important to cultural studies, youth studies, and communication studies

that identity is focused on in order to understand why ravers engage in the practices that

they do and if and why the rave culture is changing but still proving to be sustainable.

Importance of Study

This research design allowed for results that would contribute to the field of

communication because it studies identity by looking at rave culture. “Today, sub-

cultural activity is [recognized] as important for the construction and expression of

identity, rather than cells of resistance against dominant orders” (Goulding, Shankar, &

Elliot, 2002, p. 263). This forthcoming analysis of the rituals and beliefs of ravers could

allow for different perspectives regarding identities and how they may be manipulated to

emerge. These affiliations often lead to personal beliefs, which inform their identities. A

large amount of subcultures have emerged, disappeared, remained sustainable, have had

aspects become reappropriated or have gone through various processes of shifting

throughout history. Thus unique beliefs and rituals of various cultures of all distinctions

have reshaped, contoured, or altered how identity is viewed. Rave culture was chosen as

a sample to allow for a larger discussion of the intricacies of identity and how identity is

viewed and influenced. Identity in alternative cultures needs to be examined on an

academic level so that ideologies that permeate the interactions they engage in can add to

a discussion about identity.

Ravers often engage in sacred and unique practices and exploring the aims of the

rituals could be of academic value. Especially due to perceptions of processes of

commercialization of the rave culture, many of the practices that could serve to help

inform how identity is constructed and sustained presently could be shifting. Many

studies have touched on what raver identity may reflect including fragmentation,

hedonism, and narcissism (Goulding, Shankar, & Elliot, 2002). Though this study did not

seek to prove or disprove previous findings it wanted to focus more on interaction ritual

chains and what ravers say and do in an interpretive framework in order to understand

why and how ravers are manipulating their identities to fulfill a more psychological

desire to feel unique yet accepted. This served as a means to understand a broader notion

of identity and how identity is communicated in a more contemporary cultural moment.

Relevance to Communication Theory

Collins’ (2004) theory of interaction ritual chains was applied to the phenomenon.

He borrows from many theorists that are used within the communication field including

Durkheim, Mead, and Goffman. The theory is essentially all about how people

communicate and achieve together a greater euphoric feeling and collective

consciousness which is communicative on various levels. Burke (1969) theorized how we

identify with others and as groups. Communicating similarities and compatibilities with

others is done verbally and nonverbally and for ravers it is often done through ritual


The combination of techno music, dance and youth culture in raving creates an

environment that is so teeming with communication phenomenon it could be studied

widely in communication academia. For example just one piece of the combination of

raving, dance, is rich in its possibilities for communication. Culture, aesthetics, emotions,

and interactions both verbal and non-verbal like dancing can be found within the rave

scene and through the method of ethnography many more communication spectacles can

be uncovered and described.

Communication is mostly nonverbal, and in raving, participants are forced to

communicate nonverbally since the music is so loud. Ravers nod and gesture at the DJs to

encourage their performing. Another example of nonverbal communication includes


signaling friends to pass them water due to dehydration from MDMA use. Their

behaviors and mindsets often change due to their choice of drug use. According to

Davison and Parrot (1997) the majority of test subjects found that with MDMA use they

had intense “feelings of happiness and euphoria, energy and talkativeness, decreased

hostility and aggression, and greater acceptance of others” (p. 223). With this

physiological and euphoric feeling often comes the need for ravers to manifest it

symbolically with other ravers. The ravers interact with one another and with the music.

Additionally, MDMA users are keen to suck on pacifiers because the drug can cause

trismus which is the tightening of jaw muscles, and bruxism, which is jaw clenching

(Shannon, 2000). Pacifiers and gum chewing can alleviate these side effects and often the

use of the pacifiers communicates that they have been using a drug and can be symbolic

of their affiliation with the group.

The dress of the ravers communicates their freedom within the confines of the

rave itself as well. Females are often dressed in a highly sexual manner in only bras and

short skirts or shorts. This is very common in rave culture in order to express a sort of

freedom of sexuality and to engage in the act of playing a character. Men often wear

bright clothing and comfortable clothes for dancing. Ravers will often purchase clothing

or side products at the rave to signify their being affiliated with the cohesion of the group

and communicate their visible identity as a raver.

The music is highly communicative as it is the way the artists and DJs

disseminate the ideologies that are present in the subculture. For the most part the

messages take one of two sides of the spectrum, one being the dance, party, and sex

messages and the second being more about equality, freedom, and peace. The culture

prides itself in being this multifaceted mixture of party and freedom and they express it


Research Questions and Hypotheses

The key to this study was to hone in on the practices and elements that made

social effervescence and identity creation and maintenance possible. Using qualitative

methods allowed for the phenomenon to be observed and for data to be collated and

examined in order to create understandings. The following questions guided this study:

1) How do ravers perform in interaction rituals to create, support and contour their

collective beliefs? 2) How do these collective beliefs support their identity? 4) How does

participant perception of the commercialization of EDM threaten the ideology of PLUR?

Summary of Chapter

This chapter discussed the aims of the study regarding rave identity and beliefs.

Historical implications of raving and the challenges it faces as it becomes fractured by the

social and political climate were provided. Even in rave culture’s current state, the raves

themselves are still a hotbed for opportunities to realize social effervescence. Several

rituals and common behaviors and attributes were provided in order to provide a

background about the culture and phenomenon that will be explored throughout. The

following chapter will review the literature pertinent to this study particularly rave


Literature Review

Raves and ravers have been subjects of scholarly study particularly in the fields of

leisure studies, anthropology, social studies, psychology and pharmacology. Prominent

scholars overseas in Australia and England have placed an emphasis on the religio-

spiritual and transcendental properties that raving can produce. Relevant studies and

ethnographic accounts that help to contextualize and expand knowledge regarding this

culture are reviewed in this portion of the paper in order to expand upon the background

provided earlier. The literature covers MDMA use, declines and rises in rave history,

political and social implications, regional differences and shifts in public policy and


Expanding upon the assertions of Redhead (1993) countercultural theory

essentially represses the individual (Heath & Potter, 2004). “To keep the workers under

control, the system must instill manufactured need and mass-produced desires, which can

in turn be satisfied within the framework of the technocratic order (Heath & Potter, 2004,

p. 9). They argue that order is achieved by the demise of happiness and the alienation of

the working class (Heath & Potter, 2004). This then leads people to reclaim their

“capacity for spontaneous pleasure” through activities like mind expanding drugs and

subversive or hedonistic acts (Heath & Potter, 2004, p. 9). Raving includes the use of

drugs like MDMA and LSD so it has been argued to be countercultural by societal

definitions of hedonistic acts. Cohen (1972) surmised that when working classes are

undergoing changes in their infrastructure and cohesion and the dominant class is in

transition, working-class youth is in turn shaken up. Economic infrastructure changes

puts stress on the youth making them confused as to their position in society (Cohen,

1972). Youth culture can respond by becoming subcultural and by finding outlets for the

lack of cohesion they are experiencing. Redhead (1993) furthered this notion by stating

that war and economic instability exacerbate subculture affiliation and deviation in youth.

These are just theories that seek to explain youth’s participation in alternative cultures.

Important to note is that the working class youth are not the only people who rave, just a


Hebdige (1979) stated that it is a subculture’s stylistic innovation that brings

attention to the group, followed by its antisocial acts. In terms of raving this has a lot to

do with its frequent end result of the vibe or social effervescence. In raving bright

clothing and as little clothing as possible is often worn. Girls even wear pasties, which

are essentially small coverings over their breasts. This mode of dress is emblematic of the

climate of the rave and vibe. They often feel safe to express themselves as they see fit.

Hebdige (1979) further stated, “these acts explain the subculture’s original transgression

of sartorial codes and can provide the catalyst for moral panic” (Hebdige, 1979, p. 93).

In addition to subcultural theory, ethnographic accounts explicate this phenomenon.

Ethnography and Raves

Ethnography is a particularly useful methodology in the rave scene because

raving is such an extravagant and unique event and culture. Therefore it requires more

humanistic exploratory methods to provide rich description. The need for a

phenomenological based experience of a rave in order for someone to explain it

appropriately makes ethnographic observation particularly useful. Raving is a social

experience and social scientific qualitative methods have been used frequently to study it.

Many ravers have written stories and auto ethnographic accounts of their

experiences. Worldwide Ravers (n.d.) is rather poetic in his or her approach stating that

the world is entirely dystopian and for that one moment in time while they are raving they

are one in “peace, freedom, tolerance, unity, harmony, expression, responsibility, and

respect” (p.1). The writer claims that the only enemies are ignorance, which can be

fought off with information and that breaking the law for the purpose of celebrating

existence is entirely just (Worldwide Ravers, n.d.). Worldwide Ravers (n.d.) expressed

that the party that is raving will never end and because it is a state of mind or a frame of

being it is a part of his or her core being.

Drug use at raves has been linked to social solidarity in current research on rave

culture and rave theory. Kavanaugh and Anderson (2008) conducted ethnographies and

interviewed 49 raver participants. Many of the interviewees were recruited live during

direct observation of rave events. Some of the participants interviewed were recruited by

using the snowball technique as well. The research goals of the study were to “(1)

examine the relationship between drug use and solidarity in the past rave and current

EDM scene; and (2) assist in further understanding the role and content of solidarity in

peripheral cultural collectives” (Kavanaugh & Anderson, 2008, p. 182). The researchers

found that solidarity was found in the social realm in terms of the manifestations of

ideologies like PLUR, the group feelings of peace, love, unity, and respect. The

researchers also found the antithesis of solidarity, which is detachment. “In the current

scene, drug use had the unique effect of eroding social-affective solidarity and facilitating

detachment from the scene” (Kavanaugh & Anderson, 2008, p. 193). This is evident

when an interviewee states, “nowadays, people are more about going out and getting

fucked up, and trying to hook up with guys or girls or whatever, you know, and it’s like

the music is more of a background thing” (2008, p. 193-194). The account shows that

drugs are conversely infringing on the ways that drugs normally affect social solidarity.

This article sheds light on the notion that drugs play a part in the solidarity and cosmic

effervescence felt at raves but drugs are not the sole proprietors of it, the people and other

rituals are integral.

Rave Ethnography a means to discuss MDMA.While Kavanaugh and

Anderson (2008) credit ravers for the art form of raving and creating cohesion and group

solidarity by incorporating communication practices, other researchers oppose this.

McCaughan, Carlson, Falck, and Siegel (2005) attempted to develop a typology for

young ecstasy users by conducting interviews and ethnographies at clubs and raves. The

researchers presented five main subgroups in the Midwestern United States rave that

differentiated them based on identity markers such as style of clothing, patterned drug,

and musical preferences. The research itself was designed as a platform to discuss raving

as a place where MDMA is consumed. McCaughan et al. (2005) offered the suggestion

that their research could inform prevention methods amongst ecstasy users.

Drug research in rave culture has also been done in a more anthropological sense.

London was credited with being the first place in the world for raves to exist and

additionally it was one of the first areas to be studied in terms of drug purchase and

exchange at raving events (Ward, 2010). Ward (2010) chronicled the narratives of

different people and friendships, which highlighted the varied roles of drug selling and

the politics that are involved in drug exchanges at raves. It is a highly entrepreneurial

process and Ward (2010) argued that rave club participants were economic actors who

took advantage of both the legal and illegal money-making opportunities that were made

possible because of the club atmosphere, dance parties, pub and bar cultures that raves

manifested themselves in. Ethnographies allowed the researcher to document the

recreational drug market and acknowledge the anthropological elements of those who

were involved in this vibrant leisure scene (Ward, 2010).

According to Chakraborty, Neogi, & Basu, (2011) club drugs that include

Ecstasy, GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), ketamine, and Rohypnol are popular amongst

rave goers. They are especially popular because of their properties to enhance energy,

sociability, endurance, and sexual arousal. Because of this they have both physical and

psychological effects. The use of club drugs has increased significantly in the last

decade. India in particular sees this as a social threat. Chakraborty, Neogi, and Basu

(2011) further stated that club drugs are threatening to society and that drugs like these

should solely be used for medical purposes. Chakraborty et al. (2011) came from a

purely scientific perspective after they went through their toxicity reports and paid very

little attention to the ethnographies they mentioned in order to warn against the dangers

of drug use and raving.

There are others in academia, mainly those in the leisure studies fields like

musicology, philosophy, and alternative religious studies who outright disagree with

points of the previous research. Critcher (2000) posited that is an outright shame that

mainstream social science has ignored the positive aspects of raving and has shunned it as

a cultural phenomenon, key for understanding contemporary youth. Critcher’s (2000)

“Still Raving’ a Social Reaction to ecstasy” is full of academic or expert references who

deem raving to be vibrant, expressive and so forth. Critcher (200) even rebuts those who

continuously denigrate ravers simply on the fact that MDMA is commonplace in the

culture by stating that the risks of dying from Ecstasy use is about one in seven million.

This risk is much lower than the risk of death from leisure activities like skiing (Critcher,

2000). Critcher (2000) conclusively admitted that a risk does exist in taking MDMA.

However, MDMA should not be the only aspect that media and social forces focus on

when discussing raves because of the subculture’s overall contribution to music, fashion,

leisure practices and more.

Regardless of where the literature stands on the spectrum of pro or anti-ecstasy

usage, the drug’s presence in rave culture is undeniable. After the media-hype regarding

ecstasy wore off and the moral panics of the 1990s faded away, new knowledge emerged

and raves were discussed within a theoretical framework. Raving as a culture and a

spiritual experience, which could be discussed in many fields ranging from sociology,

religion and communication studies to anthropology to musicology became possible and

even somewhat prominent.

Cultural Rave Literature

St. John (2009a) was particularly distinctive in his capacity to link rave

spirituality to a religiosity and reawakening or re-enchantment. He was able to

experience and study rave culture in every capacity by attending raves like the Boom

festival in 2008. He was able to unearth the religio-spiritual qualities of psychedelic

trance within rave frameworks. There are a plethora of different styles of music and

people within the rave movement ranging from more earth based traditional trance acts

from Africa to more techno based trance from Europe (St. John, 2009a). “According to

coordinator of the Sacred Fire, Pedro, Boom 2006 was an ideal location for the Rainbow

and trance "tribes", each possessing divergent countercultural trajectories, to converge in

a fruitful and creative dialogue” (St. John, 2009a, p. 54). It is in the union of all the

unique components of all trance music coming together in one festival that made the rave

so capable of mass psytrance.

In addition to St. John’s (2009a) article on psytrance and many others on raving,

he published an edited book called Rave, Culture, and Religion (2004) that is one of the

most comprehensive historical, spiritual, and anthropological accounts of raves and

raving all around the world. St. John (2004) argued that raves have gnostic narratives of

enchantment and ascension. In a forward by Rushkoff in St. John (2004) he recalled one

of the first ethnographic observations of raving and stated all he had to do was show up

and pop an ecstasy tablet and watch the beautiful people dance. He was able to offer that

it was a group organism; raving is not an individualistic endeavor but rather totally

predicated holistically. Rushkoff in St. John (2004) stated that he was a participant-

observer watching American youth dancing under laser shows and fog machines, and

creating this hybrid of a counterculture. He watched the rise of raves and massive

counterculture that it had become.

St. John (2009b) also explored the activist trajectories of a post-rave culture with

his second book Technomad. This work examined technotribes rather than psytrance and

neo-tribes of the rave generation. The author argued that the dance scene has changed for

more progressive ends. The technomad seeks sexual freedom, refuge from prejudice and

oppression, enchantment from the world and the overall “right to party” (St. John,

2009b). This work was based mostly on ethnographic, netographic and documentary

research. This book offers nuanced post rave theory and cultural history of both rave and

technomad trajectories. It examines the technomad as starting and continuing a social and

political revolution (St. John, 2009b).


By observing the patterns of young men and women who dance from dusk until

dawn at electronic dance raves Hutson (2000) examined the spiritual healing properties

that raves have on their participants. The exhaustive dancing and altered states that are

achieved with such auditory and visual distortion have become a symbolic and

therapeutic process for this rave culture. Hutson (2000) first reported the geographical

origins of raves in Britain in the late 1980s and though he claimed raves have never

reached the popularity in the United States as they have in Great Britain, raves have

become commonplace in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York since the 1990s.

After the initial flow of raves in the mid 1990s, “rave hot spots emerged around the world

at Rimini (Italy), Ko Phangan (Thailand), the Balearic Islands (Spain), Goa (India), and

coastal Mozambique” (Hutson, 2000, p. 35).

Rietveld (2009) offered a German perspective regarding the development of

electronic dance music to both a German and English speaking audience. Based on

interviews and ethnographies this researcher tells the story of post-punk electronic in the

mid-1980s to early 1990s. According to Rietveld (2009), “techno expresses the emotion

of today’s times best of all, basically the blankness of society” (p.142). The narrative of

the beginning of techno begins with the actual introduction of the term techno in 1984 by

Talla in a Frankfurt music shop (Rietveld, 2009). After, these clubs were set up across

the country due to the popularity of the electronic form of music. Techno music was also

instrumental in being played at the fall of the Berlin wall for many of the Berlin youth

(Rietveld, 2009). Eventually a German trance aesthetic emerged in Frankfurt with DJ

Dag and this furthered the techno trance scene throughout the country (Rietveld, 2009).


Anderson (2011) chronicled the decline of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) in

Philadelphia between the years 2003 and 2005. The analytical framework of the “scene”

was used as a concept to explain cultural transformation in EDM. Anderson (2011)

explained that rave culture must include people with nuanced appreciation for the music

and art form that is EDM. He further explained that the institutions that helped make

raving an epic success in Philadelphia helped lead it to its death and failure as well. Wu

(2010) offered more specific reasons for the decline of raves in San Francisco.

Wu (2010) chronicled nostalgia and memory of the death of the rave scene in San

Francisco. Nostalgic interviews coupled with ethnographies to describe present rave

scenes in San Francisco in relation to the death of the original rave scene in San

Francisco in the 1990s. One of the respondents said:

What’s so good about the rave scene is that it’s just so open to anyone... but it is a

really sad thing when you see thirteen-year-olds, fourteen-year-olds who are

there. And they’re just doing drugs first of all. And who knows, they might have a

really deep appreciation for the music, but... if you’re gonna be here you should

know who’s spinning. You should be educated about the rave scene... You

shouldn’t be here because you know this is trendy and this is the new thing to

do... Last year or the year before... it got really exploited. (Wu, 2010, p. 66)

Wu (2010) also found out three aspects about nostalgia a) that nostalgia became

“embedded in the cultural vocabulary that young people used to perceive their

experiences of rave culture and how it had changed over time, regardless of “historical

accuracy” (p. 75). B) Nostalgia “reflected a legitimate longing for a particular


concatenation of youthfulness, and an overriding desire to recapture the emotional aura

and vibe of raves” (Wu, 2010, p. 75). Lastly nostalgia helped to market rave scenes of

the future according to Wu (2010). The next ethnographies serve as a means to explain

the altered states and spiritual consciousness.


Beck and Lynch (2009) agreed that spirituality is commonplace in raving. The

conscious partying discourses of oneness, energy, and immediatism—which draw on

Eastern, nature-based, and esoteric spiritual symbolism—clearly reflect [‘occultural’

spiritualities (Re-enchantment)]” (p. 352). This article centered on the idea that raving

can go beyond a social experience or experiment and mimic something that is truly

religious. It alludes to rave spirituality as something that parallels the religious

frameworks of the more eastern based religions like Buddhism (Beck & Lynch, 2009). It

is argued that there is an intense and clarifying purification process that occurs when one

is dancing all night and thereby enters a state of revitalization from the exhaustion and

mental growth that occurs from raving processes (Beck & Lynch, 2009).

The spiritual aspects of raving date back to the psytrance origins of raving in Goa

in the 1960s (St. John, 2010). The full moon parties were actually held on the beaches in

Goa, India and the psytrance scene there became a model for the rest of the world to

follow around the 1990s (St. John, 2010). Raving is indebted to the 1960s model of

psychedelic drug use, psytrance and DJ mixes made possible by technology in music

production (St. John, 2010). According to St. John (2010) by 2000, psytrance festivals

became one of the world’s most diverse music and dance events the world has ever

known. From the ‘60s forward the technology and music has intensified and ravers have

made their mark on the festivals.

St. John (2001) claimed that the aboriginal inter-tribal gatherings of historical

indigenous Australian tribes created the appearance that doofs were less tainted by

industrialized world practices and globalization. “Implying association with Aboriginal

inter-tribal gatherings, “corroboree” is a widely used trope designating something like an

authentic “tribal” or “sacred” experience” (St John, 2001c, p. 24). They may relate to

the aboriginals by word of mouth from predecessors and colonials however the

framework and connotations of what is sacred and what is ritual became something

valued in doofs (St. John, 2001). “Sacred” therefore meant something more free for

ravers and doofs became an ideal party construct for many ravers worldwide.

Raves are a global phenomenon and almost always linked to the larger-than-life

parties in Ibiza in the Spanish Mediterranean. D’Andrea (2009) used a narrative

technique after collecting ethnographic data and provided an anecdotal lead, which hinted

at a mysterious element of raving. She stated, “thin flashlights and the eerie stomping of

techno music afar were only leas as we blindly stumbled toward the venue”… “UV lights

produced a phantasmagoric glow on colorful fractural drapes white clothes, teeth, and

eyes” (p.1). D’Andrea (2009) also argued that raves are the expressive art forms in Ibiza

and should be looked at in terms of nomad spirituality.

The places in which raves were held were secretive at first in the 1980s as well

and warehouse parties were held in abandoned urban spaces including factories (Thomas,

1997). Private beaches were also a spot for raves to take place which was mainly due to

the fact that UK raves were considered highly illegal because of drug use and noise

violations (Thomas, 1997). However, it became more a form of urban tribalism with

dance, performance, disk jockeying and trance at the forefront (Thomas, 1997). Thomas

(1997) declared dancing for prolonged periods of time to be the single most important

aspect of a rave. This makes raving an aesthetic form and differentiates ravers from

hippies. The use of psychedelic drugs, however, links the two subcultures together.

Additionally Thomas (1997) reasserted that the term peace, love, unity and respect are

quite similar to the hippie mantra of peace and love.


Raving can be considered a form of performative protest informed by “aesthetic

politics” (Alwakeel, 2010). Dance scenes in Britain in the late 1980s and 1990s were

deemed unlawful by the parliament due to drug use and noise violations. Raves were

considered a speech act that go against parliamentary forces and are in turn a political act

(Alwakeel, 2010). It is “suggested that rave’s responses to power structures derive from

the internal dynamics of its own aesthetic politics” (Alwakeel, 2010, p. 50). Below is a

warning to DJs based on parliamentary law in 1994:

Warning: Lost and Djarum contain repetitive beats. We advise you not to play

these tracks if the Criminal Justice Bill becomes law. Flutter has been

programmed in such a way that no bars contain identical beats and can therefore

be played at both forty five and thirty three revolutions under the proposed new

law. However, we advise DJs to have a lawyer and a musicologist present at all

times to confirm the non-repetitive nature of the music in the event of police

harassment. (Alwakeel, 2010, p. 50)

Therefore breaking the law and playing their music and performing their aesthetic

identity were performing speech acts against the British Parliament. It was an active form

of protest that they were engaging in in order to critique the government’s oppressive

laws. Additionally, DJs tracks themselves are often illegal mixes or mash ups (Alwakeel,

2010). Just playing a track that is a mash up is a political act because it is an expression

of creativity without having to pay the artists who made the original bits of the music.

There has been great debate about the merit of raves based on politics or the lack

thereof. Based mostly on legal premises, ravers have had a stance against being told what

to do.

He [Randy] predicted the [rave] parties would eventually disappear under the

combined pressure of police, city and fire officials. “In the next year and a half it’s

going to vanish”, he said. “Then, when they think it’s gone, it will come back,

becoming more underground again.” (Van Veen, 2010, p. 29)

Police viewed raves as packaged hedonism and ravers fired back by continuing their

countercultural behaviors (Van Veen, 2010). St. John (as cited in Van Veen, 2010) stated

about rave politics that “the trouble is that multitudinous actions rooted in artistic,

anarchist, and spiritual movements will invariably be revealed as failures, ineffectual and

futile when gauged by the parameters of conventional consistorial politics” (p. 32).

Dance culture encourages a withdrawal from mainstream political agenda but as (Van

Veen, 2010) pointed out it is not likely to have a strong impact or effect real change in

society. Dance culture associates itself most with a libertarian agenda, which is almost

self-defeating within a capitalist construct (Van Veen, 2010). Dance culture also

imagines itself to be a mix of labor and leisure so there is a parallax and hybridity in that

sense (Van Veen, 2010).

Summary of Chapter

Rave culture has been notoriously vilified for its deviations from the norms of

mainstream society. For the most part its practices differ from mainstream norms

including its consumption of certain types of music, dance until dawn practices, and drug

use, which has been negatively judged by many. Academics are split as to how to study

them as demonstrated by the above literature review. Ravers have been looked at through

a critical lens for their drug use and looked at as guinea pigs with a wondering eye as to

why they use MDMA and other psychedelic drugs in conjunction with their music forms.

Additionally, other researchers have gone beyond looking at the surface of drug use and

praised ravers for the art form of raving. Other academics have equated raving with an in

depth spiritual enchantment and spiritual practical that has ties to agnostic and Eastern

practices. Either way it is very clear that ethnography has opened up new doors for

studying ravers that come from all around the world.

Ethnography as a research technique emerged and gained credibility that allowed

for cultures to be described to a larger population. Without ethnographies there would

not be a textual medium of rich description by which readers could almost step into the

shoes of a raver and experience the rave. A rave is an experience that most alludes to the

unreal or indescribable so the writing talents of ethnographers for making the rave come

alive through their ethnographies with almost poetic and anecdotal writing skills are

useful resources.


The type of study, rationale, design, collection, interview type, methods of

analyses and final interpretation that surrounds rave ethnography and theories including

Burke’s theories on identification and Collins’ model for interaction ritual chains are

presented here. This study is highly qualitative and includes ethnography and interviews

as a means of collecting data regarding rave culture to understand how rave rituals occur.

Semi-structured interviews with ravers in Australia who had also raved in America were

conducted and raves that were observed will help answer the questions: 1) How do ravers

perform in interaction rituals to create, support and contour their collective beliefs? 2)

How do these collective beliefs support their identity? 3) How does participation

perception of the commercialization of EDM threaten PLUR?

Defense of Qualitative Methodology

Qualitative methods allow for rich description of a culture. Thick description is a

key attribute in ethnography and involves itself in describing its key or most members

(Lindlof & Taylor, 2002). Voices need to be captured and stories need to be accounted

for in order to address my research questions which necessitates a qualitative approach.

This approach allows for the perspectives of the participants to emerge. It is particularly

effective in answering my research questions because my questions center on the

performances of rituals by ravers and how this informs their identity within a culture.

Research Design

Because this study takes place on-site and off-site of the rave, multiple techniques

were deemed necessary for proper coverage of the phenomenon. The first phase of the

study included ethnography or participant observation, which was analyzed for the

research report. The analysis focused on visible interaction ritual chains. The second

phase includes a narrative interview technique. Lastly, the examples provided from

interviews were analyzed in order to better understand if and how collective

effervescence occurred. Focus was placed on understanding beliefs and identity

throughout both the observation and the interview process.

Participant Observation

Lindlof & Taylor (2002) regarded casing the scene as a first step by which the

researcher investigates the scene in order to deem it worthy to study as well as feasible

and appropriate given particular research goals. This was accomplished by my thorough

scoping out of the scene of the rave. Through this process it was possible to see which

areas were most rich with interaction rituals. In order to conduct the fieldwork research

during the rave the role of observer-as-participant was adopted. According to Lindlof

and Taylor (2002) this role as a researcher entails that “participation derives from a

central position of observation… the agenda of observation is primary, but this does not

rule out the possibility that researchers will casually and non-directively interact with

participants” (p. 149). The researcher did not want to get caught up in raving but appear

indiscernible, yet act as professional as possible to collect data. Previous rave

observation and participation eliminated the risk of getting caught up in the novelty of

rave culture. The role of a dispassionate researcher was assumed to reduce risks of bias.

The researcher has attended several raves before including commercial raves like Electric

Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and Hard in Los Angeles as well as private raves that are

smaller and more intimate in Los Angeles. EDC and Hard were considered massive

raves, which include extreme special effects like expensive lightshows and laser

performances. The most popular names in DJs show up to these raves. A number of

Australian raves were observed and attended prior to research as well.

It was important to attend these kinds of raves and to have knowledge about the

areas of raving that would be best to study. This informed knowledge of exactly what to

wear and how to act in order to be indiscernible as a researcher. The goal was not to be a

participant observer but rather an observer as participant with the key role of observation,

taking notes about the phenomenon at hand. An etic account describes behavior through

the beliefs of an outsider (Creswell, 1998). The plan was to create an etic account of

raving and to maintain focus on observation (Creswell, 1998). Interviews were conducted

off-site and not at the rave itself. People were therefore not under the influence of the

same drugs or collective effervescence they experienced at the raves and my results were

not be biased by the hype of the rave.

To capture the observations and experiences at the rave, data was collected in the

form of field notes. Field notes are regarded by Van Maanen (as cited in Lindlof &

Taylor, 2002, p. 160) as “gnomic, shorthand reconstructions of events, observations, and

conversations that took place in field.” They are vital to studying scenes as they allow

one to remember, reexamine, and interpret the details of observations effectively at later

dates. This was accomplished by constructing field notes by openly gathering, “scratch

notes” or “observational notes” while conducting research in the field. Actions,

behaviors, and interesting details about the rave were immediately recorded in shorthand

phrases and words. This effective method of note taking was achieved by utilizing the

technological advantages that the cell phone provided. Typing notes in the phone was

likely perceived as text messaging by the other participants at the rave. The next step was

choosing interviewees.

Criteria for Interviewee Selection

Hall (2007) has an encoding and decoding theory that laid down the framework

for three specific audiences. The focus was placed on finding ravers in the negotiated or

intended audiences to attempt to answer the research questions. The first is the intended

audience, the second audience is the negotiated audience and the third is the contested

audience. Hall philosophizes on how we decode messages; however, the ways in which

particular groups decode can inform particular audiences. The first type of role of

audience is the intended. This type has the “stamp of legitimacy” (Hall, 2007, p.

516). People in this group are fully assimilated, believe in the roles and codes and act

accordingly. This group would be authentic or hardcore ravers who have been to

numerous raves. They engage in all or most rituals of the group.

Hall (2007) stated that the second major position is the negotiated code, which

operates with exceptions to the rule. They have “unequal relation to the discourses of

logic and power” (p. 516). They may believe in parts of the group but not fit in with the

entire group. These are ravers who do not necessarily align themselves with all parts of

the rave group. They are not necessarily true believers.

The last is the oppositional code or in this case the contested audience. The

audience decodes messages from the intended audience in a contrary way (Hall, 2007, p.

517). These people feign membership or outright stick out in order to cause damage or

go against what is important to the group or other two audiences. Often these are sexual

predators or people who go to raves to take drugs or take advantage of the situation.

Because of the focus on answering questions regarding a more collective notion of rave

identity the intended and negotiated audiences of raving were sought after for the study.

Interview guide

The second phase of the study called for semi-structured interviews with ravers

regarding phenomenon and rituals that occur during raves. “Recounting narratives of

human experience has been the major way throughout recorded history that humans have

made sense of their experience” (Seidman, 2006, p. 8). The type of interview that best

suited this study was narrative interviews which is essentially an in depth interview

which allows the interviewer to delve deep into the life experience and narratives

embedded in the phenomenon at question.

Questionnaire. A list of over 40 questions was drafted and later narrowed

down in order to get the best versions and content worthy questions as possible. A

dynamic mix of open-ended questions that “beg for explanations, descriptions, or

illustrations” developed a cohesive and logical questioning route (Casey &

Kreger, 2000, p. 41). The questions were pretested on a small group of three

Hawaii Pacific University students. This allowed for responses to be reviewed in

order to create reasonable expectation in terms of quality, breadth, and feasibility

of answers to the questions. Key questions regarding identity and compensation

were carefully designed and according to Casey (2000) these drive the study. The

interview guide is included in the appendix.

Summary of Methodological Implementation and Analysis


Observation took place in Queensland and Sydney, Australia in the summer of

2012. The raves were held at Familia in Queensland, and Shark Hotel in Sydney. Field

notes were taken during each rave in a non-distinguishable manner. Observations lasted

around 3 hours per rave for a total 6-hour observation. Interviews were held at the

participant’s homes or Bond University’s multi-media lab. The interviews lasted one to

two hours each. The interview questionnaire was used strongly during the interviews;

however, probing and follow-up questions allowed for more conversationally feasible

and thorough interviews. Background information of interviewees and voice recordings

were made on the researcher’s personal computer. The interviewees are later introduced

in chapter four. All interviews except for those with Andrea and Kendall were recorded

on the computer; the latter were transcribed during the interview.

A rough transcription followed all interviews which led to word for word

transcriptions of exemplars. Exemplars were then used to describe the beliefs and

identities of ravers, as well as explore opinions regarding commercialization in the


Interview sample

Participants were chosen by means of a purposive sample, which is selecting

participants based on their capacity to fit the research criteria. A “purposive sample [is]

chosen based on the particular research question as well as consideration of the resources

available to the researcher (Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2006, p. 70). According to Lindlof and

Taylor (2002) theoretical sampling is based on the interests of the study and the

theoretical parameters the study necessitates. This sampling allowed selection of

“participants or cases based on their explicit relevance to the central phenomenon”


(Baxter & Babbie, 2003, p. 313). The researcher only interviewed people who had

experienced raving in both America and Australia because this was consistent with the

researcher’s experience. This was done in order to allow the researcher to relate more

readily to the participants and assisted in the cultural translations of the participant

observation. Participants gave consent and were debriefed as part of the study. The

participants interviewed were also asked demographical questions in order to provide

personal background. These participants have been given pseudonyms in order to protect

their identity. Important, was asking their involvement within the rave scene which is

offered in the following chapter. Participants’ interviews included six people who

participated in rave culture. Three males and three females were interviewed, and all

were aged 21- 24 in order to maintain focus on Generation Y.

Results and Themes

The extracted quotations from interviews were transcribed from verbal to written.

This transcription made it feasible to easily pick out portions that built upon emerging

themes. This was a painstaking process, in which recordings were reviewed over and

over again. Nonverbal cues and tone were paid attention to throughout. After carefully

analyzing the recordings and transcriptions, emergent themes stood out based on the

principles of frequency and intensity. Frequency refers to the amount by which a topic or

category comes up in discussion. Intensity is meant to represent the strident or most

significant or forceful comments and themes. Analyzing the data required what Lindlof

and Taylor (2002) described as the “process of labeling and breaking down (or

decontextualizing) raw data and reconstituting them into patterns, themes, concepts, and

propositions” (p. 210).


In order for the study to link more theoretically with the research questions, a

further detailing of ethnography that relates to both interviewing and observing will be

offered. Additionally, Burke’s (1962) theories on identity, social effervescence and

Collin’s (2004) model for interaction ritual chains will be further explored.


Burke and identification. Burke stated in Crable (2006) that as people we tend to

identify not individually, but as groups be they religious, political or friendship based.

Burke further stated that the earliest means of identification relates to people’s parents. It

is clear under this schema how ravers would tend to identify not with themselves

primarily but with the group. This explains their means of dress, and pertaining most to

the research questions their involvement in rituals. Ravers involve themselves in rituals

and hold tightly to the artifacts to maintain group affiliations.

For Burke (1962), to identify with someone is to take it a step further and become

consubstantial with that person or group. People share an experience when they share the

same substance. This concept is essential when looking at how people interact and share

within a group context. Ravers can become consubstantial because they share the same

substance when they are raving. As they engage in the same rituals they begin to identify

with one another and become one of the same substances, which lead them to the process

of engaging in Collins’ (2004) ritual chains.

Interaction ritual chains and collective effervescence. According to Collins

(2004) an interaction ritual is a theory of situation that has to do with ephemeral or

momentary human encounters “charged up with emotions and consciousness because

they have gone through chains of previous encounters” (p. 3). He posited that people are

unique but just to the extent to which they cross paths within the interaction ritual chain

(IRC). Agency becomes then of importance in that one’s participation and entrainment in

the IRC depend on it. Successful IRC’s create a large sense of group membership and

agency that create feelings of emotional energy and sense of group cohesion.

This theory builds upon Durkheim’s (1912/1995) idea of collective effervescence.

Durkheim (1912/1995) was most noted for his work surrounding collective effervescence

of the feeling of group cohesion and energy. He believed that a successful social act made

a person feel strong and leads to initiative seeking (Collins, 2004). “Part of collective

effervescence of a highly focused, emotionally entrained interaction is apportioned to the

individuals, who come away from the situation carrying the group aroused emotion for a

time in their bodies” (Collins, 2004, xii).

Collins (2004 stated that Goffman was most “uninterested in questions of the

institutional integration of society as a whole” (p. 16). Goffman is markedly social

constructionist but he suggested individuals do not control what they construct (Collins,

2004). It is suggested that rituals show respect for and constitute sacred objects and that

sacredness can wane over time (Collins, 2004). This is of importance in that sacred

objects are utilized in the cycle of IRCs to show membership as well as growth in the

group or attainment of social effervescence.

Emotional entrainment and IRC. According to a Collins (2004) regarding the

interaction ritual there are ritual ingredients and ritual outcomes. First, there must be a

group assembly or bodily co-presence and a barrier to outsiders, which constitutes the

people. Then there is the common action or event, which holds the mutual focus or

attention and leads to the shared mood. The shared mood is the transient emotional

stimulus. These processes react together with intensification through rhythmic

entrainment. This is how the collective effervescence is achieved.

Next, the ritual can have particular outcomes. With collective effervescence,

group solidarity is achieved. Additionally, emotional energy within the individual is

augmented. There are also symbols of social relationships or sacred objects that members

have or wear to show their memberships. Codes or standards of morality exist because

there is a way by which they achieve collective effervescence. If this is not achieved and

the standards are broken there exists righteous anger for violations.

It is easy to see how rituals and actions in raving like trading kandi or dancing to

music can move a person towards collective effervescence. However, social

effervescence does not always come from this process. Collective effervescence happens

at times, not all times. In order to apply this theory data must be collected that suggests

this has occurred. As stated earlier, interviews and observations will be conducted in

order to achieve data collection. Ethnography will now be detailed in order to fully

understand theoretically how it will fit in with this study.

Ethnography as a Methodology

Ethnography was pioneered in the field of sociocultural anthropology and has

been used as a method to describe and detail a plethora of cultures from all strata of

society and all around the world. "Ethnography is the art and science of describing a

group or culture. The description may be of a small tribal group in an exotic land or a

classroom in middle-class suburbia"(Fetterman, 1998). The established ethnographic

method can be applied to focus on the communication phenomenon of a particular

culture. When it is applied to rave culture or any culture for that matter descriptions


Rukeyser (1968) imagines that the world is comprised of stories rather atoms.

Ethnographers often believe that every fiber of our existence is made of stories. It is with

their field notes, cultural sensitivity, and eye for communication practices that researchers

begin to make sense of particular cultures (Cunliff, 2010). Narrative expression has

always been an important component of humanity and it is through careful observation

and the detailing of cultural phenomena that the social realm begins to make sense to a

much broader audience. Ethnographies allow readers to have a glimpse into the social

worlds of others without actually stepping foot into the worlds proper.

The ethnographic method used in communication studies dates back to the

Mayo’s famous Hawthorne study in the late 1920s and ‘30s which regarded work

conditions and productivity (Cunliff, 2010). Since then it has been used to chronicle

everything from organizational communication, to cultural communication and

everywhere in between. But a good ethnography is about understanding human

experience “how a particular community lives, by studying events, languages, rituals,

institutions, behaviors, artifacts, and interactions” (Cunliff, 2010, p. 227). It requires

immersion, which is why it truly differs from other forms of research. Cunliff (2010)

stated that the researcher is not too quick to dip oneself into the culture but is slow to

build rapport and a good relationship, to learn the customs of the constituent culture in

order to get a really rich and dynamic idea of what truly goes on in it.

Time in the field is needed to find both depth and complexity of social situations

that the ethnographer is studying (Jeffrey & Troman, 2003). “Funding bodies, seeking

quick completions, might see ethnographies as unlikely to satisfy value for money

criteria, in spite of rewards to be gained from time consuming ‘thick description’, and

rich analysis that gets close to the lived experience of participants in social settings

(Jeffrey & Troman, 2003, p. 535). The authors suggested creating strategies by which the

work can be done in an efficient manner contingent upon the main goals and purpose of

the research. “If we are to understand the complexities of what is going on in social

situations we need to employ an ethnographic approach” (Jeffrey & Troman, 2003, p.


Speech codes and raving: PLUR. By using ethnographic methods speech codes

are found. According to Philipsen as cited in (Griffin, 2011) a speech code is a distinctly

unique set of rules of understandings within a culture and just like all cultures raves have

a speech code and it happens to be highly recognized. A speech code is basically a

specific guideline of how to act or communicate within a given culture. Rave culture

expresses their values with the message of PLUR. Because rave culture is notorious for

using Ecstasy (MDMA), ravers wanted their community to treat each other with respect

and to also take responsibility for their own actions. PLUR is a speech code that

predicated how ravers were to communicate to one another when raving and while under

the influence of illegal substances. A raver’s connection to one of the three audiences

often determines their adherence to PLUR, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Summary of Chapter

This chapter explored the methodological steps that were taken during this study

in order to fully prepare to study belief and ritual and how they contribute to how identity

is performed and lived at a rave in Australia. Qualitative techniques were utilized


including semi-structured interviews and participant observation. Coding and

categorizing of the collected data allowed for the data to be fully contemplated and to

shed light on the research questions under consideration. The findings of the study

yielded interesting phenomena that will be addressed in the following chapters.

Results and Analysis

This chapter provides the results and analysis of the study by including the

intended methodological application, summarizing of major interpretations and

referencing of exemplars with thematic pertinence from the interviews and ethnographic

observation. Six interviews were conducted and ethnographic observations were done in

this study. The six participants were chosen because of their involvement in the rave

scene and ample experience in attending raves at festivals and clubs in both Australia and

America. The interpretation of the interviews and observations address the research

questions that drove this study. They are as follows: 1) How do ravers perform in

interaction rituals to create, support and contour their collective beliefs? 2) How do these

collective beliefs support their identity? 3.) How does participation perception of the

commercialization of EDM threaten PLUR?

The overall purpose of this study was to explore the elements of rave culture that

have the capacity to produce feelings of collective effervescence as well as collective

identity and beliefs. This study also wanted to explore if and how the perceivable trend

toward commercialization within the culture has affected the ideology of PLUR. Major

themes that emerged through frequency and intensity of mentions in interviews and

observations fit within the purpose of the study and helped to address the research

questions. Themes that emerged after analyzing and reviewing the interviews include:

music having transcendental and uniting capacity, the ability of ritual outcomes to

enhance the core properties of the rave, and the importance of sharing and collective acts

to group identity.

Results demonstrated that particular interaction rituals including engagement in

music, taking drugs, and sharing kandi result from beliefs in the power of unifying and

connecting with other ravers. These beliefs are consistent with raver identity, which is

based upon collectivism and open-mindedness. These identity facets have strong links to

pre-established and aforementioned tenets of rave culture, PLUR. Being peaceful, loving,

unified, and respectful separately, as well as combined manifest within a group or

collective space. Participants’ interpretations address the idea that the ideology of PLUR

is affected and even threatened and reduced by the shift towards commerciality of raving.

Additionally, participants suggested that commercialization led to overplaying of music,

increases in prices and decreased perceptions of authenticity in the scene. My analysis

sought to make sense of typical statements of ravers and observations through an

interpretive framework

Participant Overview

Participants were asked to describe their participation in the rave scene in order to

establish their credibility and the unique perspective that led to their responses in the

interview. Katie was a 21-year-old business student living in Varsity Lakes, Australia.

She has been raving since she was 18 and has attended raves a few times a month since

then. She said when she raves she is constantly on the dance floor and that raves make

her more outgoing. George was a 24-year-old painter from Eugowra, Australia. He has

been raving since he was 18 and used to rave most often when he was 20-23. His

involvement in the scene is predominately as a means to have fun with his friends and he

works toward and looks forward to each event less as a lifestyle but more as a hobby.

Brandon was a 22-year-old retailer at a pillow store from Wollongong, Australia. He

raves a few times a month and has the most experience raving in other countries in

Europe in addition to raving in Australia and America. Tyler was a 23-year-old law

student living in Varsity Lakes, Australia. He raves the most often out of all of the other

participants and averages 2 raves a week. He said that because he is in law school during

the week he keeps these two aspects of his life separate. Andrea was a 22-year-old year

old Autism therapist living in Varsity Lakes, Australia. Kendall was a 24-year-old

advertiser living in Varsity Lakes, Australia. Andrea and Kendall were interviewed

separately but were friends and have raved together. A lot of their experiences overlap

and they have the most experience raving in large and commercialized raves at festivals

and clubs than the others.

Findings and Ethnographic Key Themes

The “feeling” of the music. Dominant elements of raving that came up during

the interviews and in observation were predictably music, dancing, and drugs. However,

music was stated by participants to have the largest capacity to create good physiological

feelings. The result of mass participation in experiencing the music and of this feeling

make it socially effervescent. Collective attention, for example on the music, “enhances

the expression of shared emotion; and in turn the shared emotion acts further to intensify

collective moments and the sense of intersubjectivity” (Collins, 2004, p. 35).

Peters (1999) argued that communication is an apparent response to the

differences that exist between one person and another and various other relationships that

exist including private and public and person and a group. Rave participants engage in

communication with one another to remedy the spaces and divides between them. Andrea

said that the rave experience is:

Beautifully strange and uniquely weird. You can never see enough strangers…

Music makes you enjoy the human existence so you learn to love and just let

people in, whether they're crazy or plain Jane. As long as no one is aggressive or

rude, or not okay from too much drugs, everyone's usually down to have a good

time and let everyone just be themselves.

The communication that occurs in response to music and with raving allows for

acceptances of the differences between others to occur. This type of music, as a

communicative force, whether it is the rhythms, messages or associations helped Andrea

to appreciate humanity at large and the various differences that exist person to person.

She qualifies this phenomenon of mass acceptance as only able to occur if the atmosphere

is respectful. Her notion of respect expresses a belief in responsible drug use and a crowd

that is not rude or aggressive. These are caveats to being able to connect with others. Her

mentions of raves as strange and weird serve to separate the experience from what is

normal, to differentiate the rave experience from normal or day to day life. This leads to

the interpretation that by raving, a participant can be his or herself and allow others to do

the same. Achievement of this acceptance occurs through processes of communicating

not always possible in everyday life.

Brandon and Tyler both further these points when they explained their feelings

that were indicative of social effervescence. They mentioned scientific references as


occurring within a social construct. Brandon equated neurons going on and off

metaphorically to bees’ spontaneous and erratic movements within a beehive:

The vibe that you feel, like you have this…you’re all moving along at once and

you’ve got this, this slow rise that’s going on and everyone around you is doing

the same thing and then once it hits, it’s just that sound and everything takes over

you I guess, it’s a really incredible feeling. There’s people that have spoken about

the hive mind. Scientists have said when you’re at raves the reason why it feels so

good is with that slow rise and beat is because like people’s neurons are firing at

the same time and it’s just an amazing feeling.

He added, “You get a smile on your face ear to ear, your eyes are like half closed

up in the sky and just feeling it, you can feel it go right through you…. [I feel] complete

content, euphoria, just really happy.” He explained that one person’s feeling is not

mutually exclusive to others, because everyone has music in common. “Everyone is

sharing those same feelings, everyone’s firing at the same time, so it’s just like an

unspoken unity, you know? Like everyone’s just feelin’ it.”

At the rave observed in Australia, ravers who experienced similar physical

manifestations of feelings as a product of enjoying the music and being part of the group

were witnesses. One raver in particular who would close his eyes while tilting his head up

and would open his arms in a manner that looked as if he was trying to soak in energy

was watched carefully. This behavior was done when the music reached brief climaxes or

increases in beats per minute. It was as if the music had a feeling that could be absorbed

both through the skin and the ears and that opening his body would somehow catch more

of the collected energy. Perhaps the feeling was coming from within and being

augmented through behavior.

Tyler explained that the feeling comes from ravers’ existence within a science-

based generation and ravers’ way of consuming music allows sound to affect the brain.

The added ingredient of other ravers in the scene, being affected simultaneously, led to an

atmosphere of mutual enjoyment.

The evolution of society, it constantly evolves, it constantly changes, and now it’s

come to a point where we’re in like a very scientific generation, I’d like to say,

and recent studies have shown that house music or rave music in general, the

faster the beat proves to increase your heart which stimulates dopamine release or

something like that, I’m pretty sure... Creating a general atmosphere that’s more


More simply, George concluded “It feels pretty good when you’re with your mates and

they’re enjoying the same music.”

For Andrea the feeling is due to the accumulation of all senses working at once,

but the music is the means to join the people together:

It's all about the experience. All of your senses are going at once. You can hear

the music, see the lights, feel the bass and people around you, and touch, [and]

smell whatever there is around you (laughs). The music speaks to the crowd and

gets everyone together in a party.

Collective effervescence is temporally fleeting so the maintenance of the feeling

requires more complex understandings. According to Olvasen (as cited in St. John,


Ravers are aware on a conscious level of the elements that produce and sustain the

vibe or collective effervescent feelings. Ravers are cognizant of the fact, that in

addition to the music, it is the people and the sense of community and

connectedness at raves that create and sustain ‘the vibe’. (p. 88)

The idea of conscious creation of the vibe leads ravers to identify as “feeling


The Burkean notion of sharing substance is exemplified by the sharing of the

music and the enjoyment of EDM. More complex is the idea that ravers could become

consubstantial because of existence of the feeling or states that come out of the

interaction ritual ravers engage in when consuming music at raves. Burke’s (1962)

theory of identification is related to Collin’s (2004) Interaction Ritual Chain theory

because collective effervescence can be interpreted as the shared substance that leads to

identification. Collective effervescence itself can also be interpreted as the social process

of identification.

The experience of the DJs. According to Collins (2004) a successful interaction

ritual requires two or more people with focused attention. The crowd and DJs play

different parts in the rituals as ingredients. The DJs functioned to play a large role in the

rave from creating the impetus to dance, fostering connections to music, and uniting the

masses. The multi-way non- verbal communication that occurred between DJ and

individual and DJ and crowd were particularly key to Kendall:

I love DJs that interact with the crowd. Not necessarily speaking in the mic. It just

adds to that community feeling. It’s kind of almost as if your mind is a blank

[and] this is specific to EDM. It's a type of music where the lyrics aren't

important; it's just music that your body responds to naturally. Dancing to a DJ is

equivalent to clapping after a performance. It's a celebratory and appreciative act

that you don't think about. You just do it instinctively, rather than having to think

about it.

Mutual awareness of the DJ and participant(s) enhance overall enjoyment as well.

George said, “If they get the crowd going it makes the experience a lot better. DJs like

kind of recognizing you’re there and that.”

DJs affect how ravers identify and associate with the scene. Tyler provided the

ways that particular artists have different effects:

The live experience of some DJs, their personalities come through more with their

music. For example I saw Laid-back Luke last semester in Australia and he was

just amazing, he was phenomenal and I’ve always just associated, just like rave

parties with him. And so just seeing him live enhanced the atmosphere a little bit.

In this sense a DJ is an icon charged with associations of what rave music should be and

their use of technology to create beats, rises, falls, and pauses capture the attention of the

crowd. Tyler added, “[A DJ’s] is like an artist painting in front of them.” Being in the

presence of this creation is something appreciated on an aesthetic level by ravers.

Besides this idea of the atmosphere the DJs create, Brandon further said that

feelings could be caused or choreographed by the DJ as well:

Their timing and the beats and the rhythms and stuff they chose to use at those

certain times dictate how I feel every time because I can go to one DJ and I’ll be

doing fade ins, fade outs each song, and you’re just not feeling it, you’re off the

dance floor in like half an hour, whereas if they really put their passion into it and

just spinning out crazy, like, it’s just different experience completely.

These ravers are in fact not DJs so they do not necessarily know what works in terms of

formulating or composing the music. They do however, by personal preference, form

opinions about the songs and the DJ’s ability to make them experience the music more

fully. Ravers form their identities and micro-affiliations based on their experience and

enjoyments of particular genres and artists of EDM and also form opinions about others’

rave identities and others’ authenticity or lack thereof by similar judgments.

Possible forms of alienation. With mutual mood attained through interaction rituals

comes a sense of confidence or correctness in groups’ affiliations (Collins, 2004). Group

members feel the urge to protect the group against disbelievers (Collins, 2004). Those

that are involved in peripheral audiences at the rave are targets of criticism. The

authentic ravers engage in speech acts that denounce transgressors in attempts to defend

what true raving is about.

In contrast to the uniting properties of DJs and EDM music, the perception that

participants in the scene do not appreciate the music provides reason to alienate or rather

disenfranchise others from group identity. Ravers who were too young in the eyes of

these participants were the main targets for this criticism. Katie said when categorizing

ravers, “There’s the young, 16, teenyboppers that are there, not really enjoying the music,

just to get really messed up.” Andrea expressed this similar idea when asked who she

considered authentic ravers to be. “I feel that the younger crowd is typically found to be

there for the story of it or to be a part of something, culture, lifestyle, not necessarily the

DJ or the music playing.”


Tyler described there being a peripheral audience who he thinks should not be

there. First, he said there are the young people who do not engage in the music but stand

on the sides “making people feel uncomfortable.” The fact that clubs and the drinking age

in Australia is 18 years and older makes him feel “creepy” being older around them. He

also stated that he does not understand why people like drama queens go to raves and cry

and with his frustration of how this impinged on his ability to enjoy the rave he asked

rhetorically, “Like why are you here?”

The ravers denounce the authenticity of peripheral audiences based on others’

levels of genuine interest in appreciating the atmosphere, artifacts and rituals that they

value. Outsiders’ inability to understand or involve themselves in a cohesive and

collective manner for the common good are in turn criticized. With their criticisms of

others they look to their own identities and the identities of whom they consider to be

authentic or genuine ravers as comparisons.

Participation in rituals. Participants’ engagement in other rituals illuminates the

importance of the concept of others in the scene to them. Interaction rituals are engaged

in to become connected to others rather than to solely satiate the self (Collins, 2004). All

participants linked their raving experience with alcohol and drug use and recurring were

statements about awareness that substances enhanced the ravers’ experience by

introducing or augmenting effervescent feelings and increasing sociability. Drugs were

spoken about as bringing everyone to the same level, to a collective altered space. Every

participant said the term “same level” at least once.

Katie spoke about the role drugs played in raving for her and connected drugs to the

ability to achieve common ground and transcend.


I feel like they play a huge part because that’s what helps everyone be very open and

it just makes everyone kind of on the same level and it makes it an interesting, really

jam out to the music and just go into own little world in your head of good vibes.

George said that raves can be fun without drugs or alcohol but the ability to bring ravers

to a “same level” make raving under the influence better,

You get into the zone a lot quicker, yeah you go to another level, it kind of

elevates a little bit, like ecstasy definitely is like a big one where it elevates…

It just intensifies everything so euphoric feelings intensified, cares or trouble-free

feelings is just intensified… you feel more love toward people around you… It

might be in your mind, where I haven’t drank and still have a good time but it

puts you on the same level as everyone else.

Tyler found this enhancement of rave experience so vital that without it the rave

experience is ruined. “Going out raving without any drugs or alcohol is absolutely terrible

compared to going with them and since I’ve raved with drugs, it’s pretty much ruined

raving without drugs.”

Identification or consubstantiation, according to Burke (1950) is a compensation

for division. In instances where dependence upon drugs leads to identification based on

the premise that ravers’ drug use is the sharing of substance, the actions are being

rewarded as aspects that are being compensated for. The idea of being incapable or

uninterested in raving without drugs because of a lack of connection or identification to

the group fits into this theory. Some ravers could be in a sense compensating for the lack

of ability to attain collective effervescence without drugs by identifying with others based

on drug usage.

Use of ritual artifacts. Symbols or artifacts can be particularly important to the

process of interaction rituals because of the narratives that embed themselves in the

object (Collins, 2004). Focused attention, a key ingredient in interaction rituals, is

mutually placed on the said object (Collins, 2004). Group identity is embedded and

reified in the ritual interaction of engaging in the PLUR handshake before exchanging


Only the females expressed having engaged in kandi trading. Katie saw kandi

trading as a means to recollect past experiences with others and create a positive feeling

for another.

It allows you to first off remember the good times you had when you look down

at your wrists and you see all the different people you’ve met. The bracelets kind

of represent that. You see all the different experiences through the kandi kind

of… It’s just a symbol of fun peace at raves…It’s a good sign, a good thing to get

a bracelet. It makes you feel special so it kind of expresses that you know you

think they’re a good cool person.

Her further discussion of how the process feels led her to speak of how she cared about

the other.

I mean usually you just you put your hands together and you pull the bracelet off

your wrist and put it on the other person’s wrist so it’s like a connection, you’re

always connected…It’s like special and I mean it’s (pause) like peaceful and just

knowing that you just made maybe someone else’s night.


Andrea also mentioned the connection or bond, but has only exchanged kandi once:

I only exchanged kandi my first full rave experience at EDC when I was rolling

for my first time. Everyone is in such an open and accepting mind that the beauty

strikes them so much that they feel to share it. I wanted to feel like I was a part of

the unspoken bond between everyone and shared with a fellow stranger I just

happened to dance alongside with at a DJ set. Some people make it a mission to

find other people to give their kandi out, almost like a fairy kandi godmother if

you will (laughs). I don't prefer to dress with kandi though. I enjoy the meaning

and symbolism of it but I don't get wrapped up in that.

Andrea’s disinterest in exchanging kandi signals that kandi trading may be losing the

importance and value that it once had. She appreciated the symbolism of it but not

enough to take agency or responsibility to continue the ritual. She stated that she did not

want to get herself wrapped up in the ritual, which may be indicative of the fact that she

was at EDC a very large and commercial rave. The commercial elements of the rave may

have sufficed her needs and maintained her attention.

Participation in kandi trading does not always lead to a “special feeling” but for

Kendall it was an experience to learn about rave culture.

I've exchanged kandi once, which was at my first rave. A friend and I met a guy

who was explaining all of rave culture to us and gave us kandi and showed us the

exchange handshake which is making the symbol of PLUR with your hand,

touching the other person’s and the last symbol is interlocking your fingers and

then exchanging the kandi. It was fun but not something I continued to do. Kind

of silly.

Kendall distanced herself from the ritual of kandi trading though she admittedly learned

and enjoyed the ritual. This implies that the latent meaning, which derives from the act of

sharing and becoming interrelated with another raver, may not resonate with her or this

newer generation of ravers. Her opinion of kandi trading could have to do with

considering the exchange to be superficial. Rather than the artifact being charged with

sentiments of PLUR the artifact may have been perceived as an ordinary, cheap string of

beads being exchanged for the sake of senselessly performing an act that original ravers

performed. Artifacts and rituals may wane in sentiment over time and in addition Kendall

may not want to embrace the culture but rather want to negotiate the culture to fit to

match her ideas of a good time.

The experience of collective sharing. This idea of sharing with “strangers” while

partaking in rituals manifests itself in more common interactions. Brandon spoke about

the way people who do not know each other intermix and share with one another in a way

that may not be normal to him outside the rave.

You might see a stranger and you pass them a water bottle, or you’ll share that

you know? It’s just everyone’s in a good mood so it’s definitely different to usual

interaction. It’s something special.

At the rave I observed it seemed sharing was a means to forge a connection, no

matter how small the interaction was. A female was drinking water and saw another

female that she wanted to dance with. She walked off the dance floor while hanging onto

her boyfriend and barely audibly said something about how she thought the other girl was

pretty. Then she sort of lightly slammed the water bottle against the other girl. The

sharing of the water bottle led to the three dancing and moving their way to the center of

the dance floor. The action of sharing water functioned as a way to bring parties closer

together, more unified.

Clothing and style. Often, results of participation in rituals “charge up symbolic

objects with significance or [recharge] objects with renewed sentiments of respect”

(Collins, 2004, p. 38). Collins (2004) stated that groups turn ordinary “things” into

sacred. Kandi was transformed from ordinary bracelet to sacred object and this was also

the case for raver clothing. For some like Kendall it was not transformed but rather kandi

was interpreted as an ordinary bracelet. The clothing ravers wear is sometimes illustrative

of identity and often denotative of higher ideas than clothing’s practical purposes. Some

ravers instead see through or interpret the sentiments of the artifacts as rather unnecessary

for involvement or affiliation with the group. Often artifacts like clothing are negotiated,

used, or perverted in order to fulfill their identities and wants or disinterests in


When participants were asked about their choice of clothing at events they stated

how revealing typical raver wear is. Participants stated that revealing clothing and bright

colors were the norm. When asked why these types of clothing are worn, participants

offered perspectives ranging from practicality to personality. Katie dresses in as little,

bright clothes as possible when raving. “It kind of makes you have a closer connection to

other people, it allows you to be free and you know, it’s fun to do.” She talked about it

being a fun opportunity to plan outfits with friends and wear clothes that she does not

normally get to wear:

People like to dress like that and there’s not a lot of places that it’s really

accepting, I mean the rave culture is all about dressing what you want and being

who you are so no one’s judging you there so you can wear as less as possible and

it’s a good time. Plus you’re dancing and it’s hot.

Katie’s statement that she can wear and create an image that she wants to portray

implies that this is restricted outside of the rave. In real life social norms are set to

appease and create consistency and acceptance in the mainstream culture. Raves for her

provide a space where she can express herself in a more creative manner.

The bright style of clothing she was speaking about symbolizes an element of

vitality which relates to the tone of ravers. Brandon spoke about his wearing of

traditional fluorescent colors and offered that the associations the colors give off are

important; they support the identity of a raver.

Maybe because it’s a symbol of vibrance and life and people can see that

brightness. It’s synonymous with like happy thoughts I guess, or just good vibes,

you wouldn’t make it black and white and gothic would you? It just seems like

it’s the color to be.

This distinction between black and neon serves to separate gothic culture from rave

culture. There is a clear sentiment of opposition between the color schema and implicit

opposition between affiliation between rave and gothic culture. The connotations and

associations Brandon makes regarding bright colors seem to reflect the spirit of rave


Andrea described the significance of colors and amounts of clothing ravers wear

as well:

The neon colors are bright and enhanced by the typical rave drugs. They are

inviting and scream a party… People's raving clothing usually denotes how much

of a seasoned [or a] new raver [the person is]. The more kandi, the more

experience you know that person has. It also shows how much or little some

people are inhibited with how much flesh they think or feel is appropriate.

Kandi and clothing were expressed as being a signal of where one stands on a spectrum

of authenticity as a raver.

However, clothing is a means of expression and these expressions are visible

identity markers that are used to create, sustain, feign or co-opt an identity. Tyler

recognized the visibility of what constitutes the choice of clothing for ravers.

Due to the mainstreaming of raves and barriers to ravers Tyler now opts out of wearing

the typical rave clothes he once wore because of perceptions of those who express their

rave identity in clothing.

I wear pretty much the same as when clubbing. I just wear like jeans and either

like a button shirt or t-shirt depending on the weather, but basically just normal

attire. I don’t wear anything different... I don’t want people to just automatically

know that I’m on drugs when I go out and if I dress like some of my buddies do

when they go out just complete bright colors I feel like it’s gonna reduce my

chances of getting into the club a little bit… It’s a pretty big flag when you see

someone who’s walking around in neon yellow.

Clothing choice of a raver can hint at affiliations but it is not a tell-all that indicates

identity. This also suggests there is a homogenization of rave culture and club culture in

that the members of both, in either style of dress can party in the same place. Because of

this, typical ritual involvement can be more expressive.


At the rave in Sydney the choice of clothing was varied particularly because this

was a club that puts on several different types of events, raves just happening to be one. It

would appear by the distinct differences in people wearing “club attire” (females in short

dresses and heels, and males in jeans and collared shirt) versus those in the raver wear of

t-shirts with bright colors, that some people were unaware that this night was to be a rave.

Though there was interaction between the two groups separated by very different

manners of dressing, ravers would tend to engage in rituals with the ravers wearing

similar clothing. Performing light shows with mini flashlights they had brought to the

club was done only to those that were in the raver clothing. Though clothing was not a

means to blatantly divide the groups, more sacred interaction rituals conducted raver to

raver did. Clothing functioned to serve as a barrier to outsiders’ being accepted and

identified with ravers in this sense.

Perceptions of identity. Burke (1950) stated that when people identify with one

another they are consubstantial. The individual perceives the amount of connection or

overlap with others or the group. Ravers’ perceptions of one’s consubstantiation with the

group are often based on the perceived sharing of characteristics or indicative features.

Some features of identity are seen as more vital to acceptance in the culture. The

capacity to be open minded and fun seeking is critical. Brandon touched on the idea of

open-mindedness as part of raver identity and discussed how without the traits,

participation in rituals would be jeopardized:

Most are able to relax a little more, be more down to earth more, creative thinkers

too, like you wouldn’t get like a stiff that just goes there, because you have to get

into the zone, you really need, even with drugs like you still need to be a good

mental state, everyone’s just chill out... Open minded people definitely enjoy it


When Brandon was asked what core beliefs make raving important to him he said,

“Not taking life too seriously, and just try to have fun, try to enjoy things.” Tyler added,

“[The idea of PLUR] reinforces the general hippie idea of everyone just chill and relax

because everyone’s so uptight nowadays.”

This reinforces some of the similarities that are perceived to be shared between

hippies and ravers. The idea that both cultures emphasized a more relaxed personality and

philosophy on enjoying life was touched upon. Their perceptions of a nostalgic hippie

era informed character traits they wish to posses or that they saw as a form of continuity

between the two cultures.

Kendall spoke about the idea of being open to meeting strangers:

When it's a complete stranger like from the crowd it can be fun. You just know

you're all there for a good time and you won't see them again in reality. Though

some people are very strange and not necessarily ones you want to rave with, it’s

probably different for everyone. For me, I think it can be exciting making brief

concert buddies. It goes back to the feeling of community, all being in it together.

When discussing beliefs and commonalities between her and other ravers Katie

said, “Basically just that everyone’s kind of happy and they just believe in peace and the

music bringing everyone together. And they just really value friendships and great music

in general.”

Belief in electronic music’s capacity to be more than just a song but to accomplish

social reformation was touched on more by Katie. All ravers mentioned music’s capacity

to unite people in society. Katie said she believes that raving is more of a social

movement than a fad because of what she said it can achieve. “Basically it’ll maybe just

bring more peace, you know, people will start realizing that music really does solve

things. It brings people together and there’s no reason to be hatin’ against other people.”

None of the ravers offered concrete examples of ravers achieving or being united in any

type of real social movement or social reformation. These messages or feelings that

something is being accomplished by raving including music’s capacity to bring people

together seem to be complicated by commercialization.

Commercialization. After standing against a wall and veering onto the dance

floor at Familia, the migration of ravers on and off the dance floor was witnessed to be

indicative of song choice. When DJs spun more authentic techno and dub step tracks the

dance floor was crowded and most individuals would “go off” dancing, and pumping

their hands above their heads. When the DJ would play or mix in a top ten popular music

song like Carley Rae Jepson’s “Call me maybe” many ravers left the dance floor,

interrupting their previous vibes. Discontent with commercial music led to ravers’

momentary protest. Tyler had experienced similar disenchantment with pop techno

integrated into the scene, “Half the time a song comes on and I’m just shaking head like I

don’t even wanna be here anymore.”

Participants spoke about the commercialization leading to music being

overplayed. Andrea said that something is lost when this occurs:

I love the music so I would obviously want people to feel the same, but there's

some luster that lost when everybody likes it and a certain old favorite song of

yours is now overplayed on the top 20 on the radio. I believe in the music, not the


Brandon said that, “…any good music, even Indie music, you want everyone to

experience it but you don’t want it to become mainstream because every time you listen

to a song too much it just becomes crap.” Although with commercialization comes the

reaching of a wider audience. Tyler said:

It gives everyone a chance to experience a different culture. I don’t know. I feel

like music’s personal preferences so forcing music upon someone’s not really an

effective way of getting them interested in it. They have to come to terms with it

on their own.

Participants also noted that with more commercialization, raves are becoming

massive with expensive headlining artists which drive-up ticket costs. As budgets

increase for raves, often so do ticket prices, which even forced Andrea to consider not


The commerciality usually affects the DJ more than knowing. It’s really more a

chain cycle, the DJ becomes more mainstream, the crowd follows, and the event

becomes a more popularized event, with probably a bigger budget as well, for

things like venue, lighting, special effects. I really think about whether that

money is genuinely worth spending. Am I seeing enough DJs, people to justify

paying that much or is the ticket price for the name of the event?

When asked if commercialization affects personal enjoyment of the raves Katie

spoke about loss of the special essence and reduction of authentic ravers.

Yes somewhat because it’s not as special anymore because it used to be kind of

just a select group, now you have these little kids, then the hippies (as authentic),

and people there to get drunk… It’s still fun but it’s not as unique.

Katie spoke about how with the raising of prices comes the reduction of authentic ravers

in the scene.

There’s less people there that really should be there, the people that often can’t

afford to get into the raves are the people that really enjoy the music and are the

true supporters that should be there, but they can’t afford it now that it’s so


Rules that restrict what ravers can wear, bring, and do at raves, for example the

restriction of wearing fuzzy boots at some raves, has occurred as well. Kendall noted that

an alternative meaning for PLUR that she heard in America was, “Please Let Us Rave.”

With commercialization and more people came an increase in security guards and police

presence at the raves that find ways to reduce the perceived antisocial behavior of ravers.

Despite the negatives of commercialization and anger towards the threats of it,

most participants stated that there were advantages to commercialization as well. The

reasons centered on how popularization of raves is good for artists. With some hesitation

Katie said, “I mean just that you meet more people and I mean, I don’t know the

advantages really. Just the people aspect and it’s good for artists at least getting all the

names out there.” George said that a commercialized rave could be, “Better in a way. DJs

are better, world class DJs.” When Tyler was asked whether commercialization affects

his enjoyment of raves he was torn:


Sometimes it does but other times I think they play on it, they use it to their

advantage. So when they commercialize a huge event like Stereo that’s coming up

in December, all the ravers just now are already looking forward to it and like I

think it’ll add to the enjoyment of it.

Chapter Conclusion

This analysis found many topics and themes including the feeling of music, the

experience of the DJs, possible forms of alienation, participation in rituals, use of ritual

artifacts, the experience of collective sharing, clothing and facets of style to shed light on

what influences and comes to be indicative of rave identity. Interaction rituals are

performed in an effort to support their beliefs and in turn their identity. Rituals rather than

being individual in nature are engaged in with other ravers in a conscious or subconscious

act of unification. This supports the idea that ravers are part of a unique culture because

of their desire or belief in shedding their egos in exchange for the connection with the

group. The notion of engaging in rituals for the purpose of attaining a feeling led to the

interpretation of their identity as self-conscious collective feeling seekers. Their

collectivity and overall open-mindedness to engaging in rebellious behaviors become

indicative of their identity. Rather than simply the idea of the feeling of collective

effervescence as a result of rituals, ravers are often conscious of their desires to attain it.

This is exemplary of raver agency.

Participants discussed that commercialization affects interaction rituals that

surround the consumption of music at the rave. The examples participants provided

explored the results of commercialization of raves including a lesser enjoyment of

overplayed songs, an increase in pop music being injected into the scene, and higher

prices. Though some participants said commercialization of raves could increase

enjoyment in some capacities, it reduced the size of the intended audience at the scene.

The following final chapter will discuss the findings and the themes uncovered through

the previous analysis. Identity of ravers will be examined in light of the ethnographic

conversations and observations. All of the research questions will be revisited and

responded to, and a conclusion regarding what this study provided and what this says

about participants and the contemporary cultural experience will be offered.

Discussion and Conclusion

The purpose of this study was to uncover the rituals and processes that lead to

raver identity as well as explore raving’s move toward commercialization. This study

also found implications of commercialization. In order to accomplish this purpose,

Burke’s (1950) theory of identification and Collin’s (2004) theory of interaction ritual

chains were used in order to ground findings. The demographic focus was placed on a

younger population in order to provide a more recent account of rave culture as the

academic body of research on the subculture focuses predominately on Generation X.

Interview questions and focus on ethnographic observation was developed in order to

encourage information regarding identity to be gleaned.

The rave culture is rich with rituals and social processes that differentiate it from

mainstream society. This study explored the rave culture through ethnographic

observation and interviews. Ravers that had been immersed in the culture in both

America and in Australia shared their experiences that are indicative of various elements

of their identities. Hall’s (2007) encoding and decoding model was used to determine a

typology of audience responses. Analysis was organized by putting responses into


categories of these typologies. Participants often negotiate what it means to be an

authentic raver, to act or exist in ways that are exceptions to the authenticity of the

intended identity. This study sought to uncover interaction ritual chains of these ravers,

which often lead to augmented and unique feelings. These intense feelings of enthusiasm

and energy within a group construct are theoretically referred to as collective

effervescence (Durkeim, 1912/1995). Burke’s (1950) notion of identification was used in

order to understand the rave cultural identity as less prescriptive and more emergent.

This study was unique in its capacity to focus on Generation Y identity in the

midst of the subculture’s gradual transformation and present commercialization. Findings

suggest ravers often self-consciously seek this feeling of social effervescence rather than

experience it as accidental or coincidental. The concept of collectivism emerged as a

central attribute that was indicative of a participant’s identity within the culture. Further,

“the ‘culture as identity’ viewpoint is more grounded in people’s experiences, where

music scenes provide alternative lifestyles and collective and personal identities”

(Anderson, 2009, p. 309). Authenticity of music and individuals as informed by

researchers and participants regarding the scene were important throughout the

forthcoming analysis. Collective rave identity has shifted in terms of audience

membership, participation, and in response to commercialization. The following sections

further discuss the results and interpret the contributions of this study to the existing body

of knowledge.


This study took place more than thirty years after the creation of the rave culture

and sought to understand raving in the present. While comparing these ravers’ values,

beliefs, and identities to literature regarding previous eras of ravers, this study found that

values of raving were not fully maintained in the intended form, but rather perverted.

Previous rave scholars and participants inform this intended form of raving. Hall (2007)

stated that the negotiated meaning arises when the individual or group assigns or adapts

alternative meanings to the said object, idea, or viewpoint. Ravers thus negotiate the

viewpoint of what open-mindedness regards and means before adoption of it as an

identity facet. Participants did not express interest in inciting a social movement or fully

embodying what it truly means to be peaceful, loving, unified, and respectful in all areas

of life. Many of those engaging in raving and consequently all of my participants

demonstrated that their identities were negotiated. The participants negotiated their

identities as ravers in order to allow raving to be a separate part of their life, distinct from

how they act in mainstream society. They indicated authenticity as predicated on being

able to fully appreciate the music, respect the history of raving, and being able to achieve

heightened levels of consciousness and collective effervescence.

However, these practices and admissions of open-mindedness, creativity, and

collectivity often occurred only insofar as they were immersed in the rave itself. “It is

part of what might be termed the trend towards [compartmentalized] lifestyles whereby

one identity (the responsible worker) is shed and another adopted” (Goulding et al., 2002,

p. 263). Ravers separate and negotiate their lifestyles with respect to the two often-

conflicting worlds of raving and work or school life. This marks a distinction between

identity in mainstream culture and identity created from alternatively practicing and

participating in rave culture.


Identity as temporary and transitory. Being a raver, for the negotiated

participants, is something that can be turned on and turned off. “Insomuch as people are

always unfolding themselves, communication will never be a transmission of pure

thoughts but will be an allusive enterprise of hints and evasions” (Peters, 1999, p. 22).

The ways ravers engage in raving when they wish to feel collective, or want to party and

let go, or even more idealistically want to experience and be a part of a peaceful body are

forms of hints and evasions. Many of the ravers like Katie suggested that raves allowed

them to be themselves, which is not only a hint that raves are a collective and accepting

space but also an evasion of why they cannot express themselves in all aspects of their


Participants revealed that their identities as ravers were not all consuming. Rather,

elements of their rave identities did not always cross over into their everyday lives.

Ravers seem to contain a multiplicity of identities; identity as performed in what they

allude to as the unreal and real world. My findings revealed the notion that these ravers

see raves as unreal or artificial whilst participants believe structures of daily life that are

highly institutionalized within a capitalist construct are real. The participants viewed

academia and work or careers as their real life. This indicates that raves, especially since

becoming commercialized, are created, artificial spaces that catalyze utopian moments

and replicate futuristic visions of when or if utopia or even pure collectivism is able to

exist. Through music and interaction rituals, something, be it an opportunity to

experience collectivism or engage escapism from the real yet inadequate world, is

possible. This imagined, more utopian, and collectivist space constitutes raves and

informs raver identity while the dominant political and economic reality constitutes

mainstream society and informs mainstream culture. Separate identity performances seem

to satiate different needs, wants, and perceived obligations for the participants.

There is a separation of how identity can fit within raver’s lives in this sense.

Restating Tyler’s comment expresses this negotiation. He said he practiced rave values,

“Just at raves. I study law during day, rave on weekend. Have to keep them separate.”

There is a disconnection between Tyler’s engagement in the lawlessness of drug

consumption and his career, which is based on upholding and practicing law.

Additionally, another participant, George, said that he worked up to the weekends when

he got to rave as if engagement and hard work in the real world could be rewarded with a

fantasy world. These findings relate to the findings of Goulding, Shankar, and Elliott

(2002) which discussed how working during the week and raving during the weekend

reflect a fragmented, postmodern identity.

Some features of the mainstream society and agenda are seen as flaws when they

enter the rave scene. Raver participants denounced elements that are not indicative of

peace such as drama, sexual misconduct, and inauthenticity as they have an idealistic

vision of what the scene should be. The separation of mainstream society and raving

indicates that ravers see many things wrong with the structures of the world. Despite this

dissatisfaction they restrain from full participation of raver or alternative subcultural or

countercultural identity.

Cultural distinctions. There are notable differentiations between ravers and

previous subcultures or countercultures including hippie counterculture. Ravers have yet

to incite a sustainable social movement by employing or opposing dominant political

tactics. Ravers also often exist on the fringes of mainstream culture and accept many of

the indoctrinated practices of this culture including employment and institutionalized

education. This presents a lack of continuity with hippie counterculture that not only

rejected a substantial amount of mainstream culture but actively and visibly protested

against it. While the literature cites similarities between ravers and hippies, rave

participants in my study were not actively trying to change society or engage in

mainstream politics to allow for their beliefs and rituals to be actualized in their everyday

lives. Though all the participants agreed raving was a social movement, their reasons or

actions for being this as a truism were inconsistent. Attitudes for participants diverged

and were very disconnected, which marked a lack of continuity. George said, “I don’t

think it’s a fad. It’s been going on so long, just think it’s gonna progress. I don’t think it’s

going to accomplish much, people losing brain cells, people having fun. I think it’s

alright.” This indicates there is a value in having fun and that he believes despite some

negative consequences rave culture is valid. On the other side of the coin, Katie said,

“Basically it’ll maybe just bring more peace you know people will start realizing that

music really does solve things, it brings people together and there’s no reason to be hatin’

against other people.” Raving for the participants is far more about having fun,

appreciating others, and possibly spawning attitudes of acceptance than actively and

consciously fighting for social reformation.

There is contentment with the compartmentalization of the two worlds and a

compensation for that which is unfavorable in ravers’ day-to-day lives. Though

participants’ behavioral liberality including the use of drugs while dancing in the

impermanent atmosphere of PLUR can be seen as an aesthetic means of protest against


the status quo, participants did not allude to this. A general apolitical tone was markedly


“Where counterculture embraces spirit, it does not settle for periodic

acknowledgement of divinity through the repetition of some arbitrary gesture, but instead

attempts to live each day as a constant, dynamic expression of spirit itself”(Goffman &

Joy, 2004, xxii). Ravers’ gestures and rituals are distinctly non-arbitrary and are charged

with sentiments. However, the latter parts of Goffman & Joy’s (2004) articulation of the

requisites of counterculture are not met. The divorcing of rave identity from day-to-day

identity signified that rave identity often exists as a repetition of ephemerality. Thus

many ravers, particularly in the negotiated audience, are not embodying or acting upon

core beliefs in all areas of their lives.

Furthermore, Heath and Potter (2004) suggested that society controls

countercultures by “limiting the imagination and suppressing individual’s deepest needs.

What they need is to escape from conformity. And to do so, they must reject the culture

in its entirety. They must form a counterculture-one based on freedom and individuality”

(p. 31). Again, this research supports their argument in that ravers in the negotiated

audiences expressed having their imaginations suppressed and felt needs to actualize their

beliefs. The ravers did not; however, reject mainstream culture in its entirety but

embraced it as the dominant aspect of their identity.

Raving is able to endure within mainstream culture as an alternative culture with

music, dancing, drugs, overall atmosphere and desire for collective effervescence or the

vibe as common interest. Not only is raving itself able to exist and thrive within

mainstream society despite it being described by participants as a separate world, but it is


slowly becoming more conventional or mainstream as commercialization increases.

Contrary to ravers’ original existence as counterculture as informed by previous research

(Redhead, 1993; St. John 2001) this research supports a shift in how raves are seen and

performed in by individuals and the group.

Cultural nostalgia. Nostalgia is more complex than a more personal yearning for

the past but rather a “deeply social emotion” (Davis, 1979, p. xii). The patterned

attitudes, identity markers and overall themes then inform this vision or emotion of

nostalgia and are more so collective in this sense. Davis (1979) explored the idea that

nostalgia can be a tool in understanding maintenance of identity but more applicable, in

periods of marked discontinuity nostalgia can become a collective response. Davis (1979)

discussed the intense nostalgic enthusiasm with the 60s and 70s. Raver participants were

drawing from experiences of past subcultures including hippie culture in order to serve as

a means to comment on their current cultural realities and attempt, though in often

ideologically discontinuous ways, sentimentalized experiences.

The participants hinted at mindsets and features of hippies that informed a sense

of authenticity in the current scene. For example, Katie hinted at this when she mentioned

hippies with dreadlocks were authentic as the embodiments of elements of peace and love

that are so valued in rave culture. Tyler had said, “[The idea of PLUR] reinforces the

general hippie idea of everyone just chill and relax because everyone’s so uptight

nowadays.” Nostalgia for the hippie era, and origins of raving, informed for these

participants a vision of what the rave scene should be or ought to be. Often the

participants expressed angst with the perceived processes of commercialization that has

entered the scene and they alluded to a period where there was not the reality and there

was in this sense a more pure scene. This nostalgia in turn became a force of alienation, a

means to create distance between other audiences, and a form that allowed for a

collective angst towards perceived commercialization and inauthenticity. Rave

participants did not hint at an expertise or experience with hippie culture or even what

they considered a more golden era or pure form of raving; rather they drew on their

disenchantments with their current cultural state with their perceptions of collective

nostalgia. These beliefs are more so collective for the participants and inform how they

negotiate their identities.

Rituals, beliefs, and identity. Consubstantiality or Burke’s (1969) notion of how

people see themselves as similar is attained for ravers in a way that alludes to their

collective identity. Ravers behave or engage in ways that help them share transcendence

or collective effervescence. Consubstantiality is achieved by raving and sharing purpose.

The purpose of consuming music, dancing, taking drugs, trading kandi and other rituals

are to become a temporary collectively transcending body. Participants informed this by

putting the most focus on the results of their behaviors or rituals by emphasizing getting

on the same level, feeling the same feeling, and sharing the same notions of


Results and evaluation of the research questions regard how ravers perform in

interaction ritual chains to create, support, or contour their collective beliefs. They

wanted to disengage from the practices of individualism within the mainstream society

and satiate their desires for collectivism through a reoccurring transitory raver identity.

Participants revealed this as strategic and conscious. Participants engage in rituals with

collectivist intentions, mindful of others involved with the rituals. This supports their

shared belief in collectivism. Furthermore, this study sheds light on how collective

beliefs support their identity. This study indicates that their beliefs in collectivism and the

nature of the types of rituals performed support their identity as open-minded feeling

seekers and collectivists.

When participants were asked about the beliefs that are important to them about

raving, all brought up open-mindedness. Open-mindedness was mentioned with regards

to engaging in rituals. As discussed in chapter 4, Brandon spoke about the necessity of

open-mindedness with regards to taking drugs while Kendall spoke about being open

minded to meeting and engaging in rituals with strangers. Interestingly, participants were

not always open-minded when it came to engaging with all people. Participants

denounced younger ravers and people who were not there to enjoy the music thereby not

exemplifying acceptance and open mindedness with regards to peripheral audiences.

Many of the ravers signaled that raving occurs or should occur during a specific age

group. This again has implications that refute the full embodiment of open-mindedness

and opens up discussion of whether ravers in Generation Y see rave identity as dependent

on age. George spoke about not wanting to be engaging in rave culture when he was 30.

He also spoke about ravers in their late 30s and 40s not fitting in. When asked why

Andrea was involved with the rave scene she hinted at age and said, “…. and we’re

young, why not?” In a more subtle way, this indicates that rituals and behaviors that are

involved in raving are age specific.

Identity markers are based more on participation rather than appearance

expressions. One’s perceived authenticity within the scene is less based on if you are

wearing the right clothes than if you are attempting to transcend collectively. Especially

since commercialization has led to rave clothes often of a neon color schema being

integrated into the mainstream, one rave participant did not feel as attached to clothing as

a means to collectively identify. Tyler even stated that he did not wear neon as it has

become denotative of drug consumption in the scene and that normal wear at raves or in

clubs that resemble raves makes his intentions with drug use less noticeable. Thus rave

identity is less prescriptive. It does not require having a rather superficial laundry list of

things to identity ravers, but rather necessitates participation in overarching rituals in a

manner that is good for the collective group.

Much of the existing body of literature regarding properties of Australian raves

led the researcher to hypothesize that raves in Australia were revolving around the

“earthcore” practices of raving and spirituality as a key component to raving.

Participants glossed over what the researcher thought important elements of this

country’s rave scene, including elements of spirituality and group mentality. This raises

the question of whether existing research focused narrowly on this type of raving thus

influencing the researcher’s views of what raving was most commonly like in Australia.

It became very clear after speaking with participants and observing multiple raves that

these ravers believed that elements of commercialization were not overcome or rejected

in favor of earthly spiritual raving.

Perceptions of commercialization. Lastly, results and evaluation regarding how

participants see the commercialization of EDM as affecting PLUR, the raver credo of

peace, love, unity, and respect, indicates that enjoyment could be lessened and constituent

audiences affected. Though every rave participant agreed that peace, love, unity, and

respect were ideals that defined a raver, some of the ravers including Tyler and Brandon

were not familiar with the term PLUR. The term itself seems to be losing its viability or

at least popularity as time goes by and commercialization spreads. It is seemingly

becoming more of a meaningful party experience than a countercultural lifestyle. During

this period where raving is turning commercial, elements of the intended ideology PLUR

are being threatened. The rituals engaged in are changing in part because of generational

deviations and in part because of commercial demands. Music, for example, is being

popularized thus adulterating its perceived authenticity and capacity to be enjoyed for

many ravers. According to Hall (as cited in Storey, 1998), “cultural struggle takes on

many forms: incorporation, distortion, resistance, negotiation, recuperation” (p. 450).

The incorporation of popular music elements creates a struggle amongst rave audiences.

According to participants this cultural struggle occurs in many ways due to the process of


Ticket prices go up because commercial rave scenes require large funds to include

popular artists, increased space for an increased audience, heightened security, and other

elements (Anderson, 2009). The participants perceived that commercialization affects

those in the intended audience who cannot afford to go. This can be attributed to the idea

that the segment of the intended audience is less apt to save up for commercial events that

may fall short in fulfilling their needs. Additionally, as the raves become larger and more

conducive to a larger spectrum of society the artists reflect more mainstream sentiments

to accommodate the desires of those in more negotiated audiences. The idea that ravers’

identities are often negotiated because of how they view PLUR and commercialization

puts raving in general in a position of transition. This raises the question of whether

identities of the mainstream and rave identity will predominately be separated as this

study suggests, or if rave identity will be adopted into a more composite identity as

literature suggests was the case at the beginning of rave culture.

This study focused on how the identity of these rave participants was supported

by collective beliefs and how perceived commercialization played a role in the larger

picture of raver identity. Though raving was suggested to be transitioning toward

commercialization, the collectivity and focus on realizing transcendence in the rave scene

has remained from the creation of the rave scene. This exists in both the negotiated and

intended audiences and is supported by the literature throughout the many years of raving

and emerged as essential in this study.


Limitations of this study are important to acknowledge because exploring aspects

of identity based on a limited population, especially while exploring constructs as

controversial as authenticity are precarious from a research perspective. Though this

research draws conclusions based on the research methods previously described it does

not seek to make overarching generalizations regarding the holistic rave scenes of all

countries, with all ages, and all sub and micro distinctions. This research sought to further

explore elements of identity in Generation Y. Limitations and strengths of this research

will further be used to propose future research to fill in gaps in the existing body of

research with respect to ravers.

Limitations due to sample. The sample size was relatively small and specific

features of the participants have possible implications of representativeness. Finding

ravers that had raved in both America and Australia was a difficult process. Though a

large population of those 18 years and older who were approached regarding participation

in the study had raved extensively, the requisite of participation within the rave scenes of

both countries significantly decreased the pool of candidates for participation. The notion

that participants had the monetary resources to visit and/or live in both countries implies

a certain level of socioeconomic status. Many ravers whose disposable income prevented

leisure travel were consequently excluded from the study, which thus created a limitation

of representative population based on socioeconomic class. This was partially remedied

by the researcher’s participant observation in the rave scene of both countries.

Recommendations Based on Findings and Limitations

Participants spoke about their perceptions of commercialization and their

disenchantments with some mainstream societal contexts, which created a possible topic

for future research. Capitalistic expansions of raves and production of cultural products

explored in Anderson (2011) may have a link to the reorganization and shifts towards

commercialization that rave participants speak about. Ott and Herman (2003) furthered

this by offering that commodification of raving has shifted many elements of rave culture

including the moving of raves to clubs to increase profitability. Though it was beyond the

scope of this study, participants hinted that that the processes of international capitalism

could play a role in the homogenization of rave scenes and possible moves towards

mainstreaming and commercialization. Though not a focus of the study, participants’

comments varied in their personal preferences on different countries’ rave scenes and

when they discussed venue and locational differences they focused almost exclusively on

aspects of size, type and spectrum of commercialization present. Most telling is that they

left out indicators of difference that regard spirituality and group mentality. This may

indicate that these ravers see these elements as having been homogenized in any rave

experience. This study however focused more narrowly on the rave experience of

participants thus making a more global argument regarding this phenomenon beyond the

scope of this study. Future research could consider how ravers’ opinions about how

capitalist production of rave products and the raves themselves lead or do not lead to a

manipulation of established beliefs and identity features and markers.

Raves, as one of the first psychedelic commercial markets would be an important

facet to explore in future research. Understanding how marketing is directed toward the

temporary and transitory notion of rave identity would be an interesting topic for the field

of communication. Participants wanted to engage in raving on the weekends in order to

be able to engage in their normal lives or work or studying. Thornton (1996) claimed

subcultural groups often reject alcohol yet these participants often used only alcohol or

alcohol and Ecstasy at raves. Ecstasy or alcohol as the drug of choice by participants

could suggest that they are looking for a relatively short, one night experience. This study

did not focus heavily on what substance use communicates; however, the choices they

make in terms of the drugs they take and the days they rave could speak volumes about

their identity. For marketers, security guards become obligatory and more boundaries are

imposed upon those raving. Creating an environment that pays homage to the PLUR

heritage and allowing ravers to engage in their rituals with minimal opposition could be

studied in Generation Y in order to gauge if this is an effective tactic in satisfying the

wants of the intended and now even in negotiated audiences. Participants highly regarded

the rituals they engaged in, particularly with respect to achieving their need to get onto

the same level, or to share a state of being. It would be interesting to study the synergetic

ideas of whether marketing is informing the emphasis on rituals for the younger

generation or if rave identity is informing marketing.

Recommendations Based on Demographics and Methodology

Focusing on Generation Y helped to understand how cultural identity can shift.

However, a study focusing solely on the differences in raving between the two

generations would be beneficial. Studies have noted generational differences in particular

scenes, but utilizing a focus group that allowed for comparisons to be made and discussed

in a multi-way communication process would be a useful method. The first generation

that created the culture engaging with the following generations who have adopted and

put their spin on it would have important implications regarding social goals, purpose,

and perceptions of authenticity. The utilization of time lapsed study within Generation Y

could yield important information regarding raving as well. Understanding when and if

ravers leave the subculture and why could provide insightful information regarding the

temporality of raving. It would be interesting to see if rave identity remains and becomes

a latent part of a person’s identity, if elements of rave identity become adopted into their

composite identity, or if rave identity is eliminated from their identity once a raver cuts

ties and stops participating in the rave scene.

A further exploration that focuses on more culturally different locations and

subgroups and how they result in different identities would be beneficial. For example,

psytrance festivals taking place on the beaches of Goa might lead to different raver

identities than rave club cultures in western popular cities. This study focused on identity

within a population that has raved in multiple countries focusing primarily on America

and Australia. A comparison including ravers who had solely raved in one country

versus a multitude of countries could yield more distinct information regarding



This study raised questions regarding the rave culture and recommended

directions for future studies. There are changing patterns of identity within the rave

culture and commerciality is becoming viewed to be increasing my participants. The

patterns seem to be changing as identity has been explored as being separate from

existence in mainstream society. The qualitative research approach provided a means to

gain insight from personal experiences and views of ravers. Their engagement in

interaction ritual chains allowed for identity to be further explored. Ways raver

participants identify with others in the scene and how they spoke of their rituals were

essential to the study. Commerciality threatened rituals of ravers including their

perception of quality and enjoyment of music yet the idea of collectivity and

transcendence endured. Ravers are negotiating what it means to embody the ideology of

PLUR and are engaging in rave culture to fulfill different needs, needs to feel and express

togetherness and collectivity.

Contemporary cultural moment and raving. This study in a larger sense

revealed that ravers reshape meanings, practices, and articulate and negotiate their

identities to fit their needs and desires, both individually and collectively. This study

supports the findings of Goulding et al. (2002), which asserted that community in rave

culture is important but is not based on a lifestyle commitment. This study raised

questions about their claim that ravers’ identities are often confused. There may be a

disconnection between multiple identities but this does not imply confusion by the person

who expresses the multiple identities. Participants were clearly aware of how they

manipulate their identities. The identity these participants express in mainstream society

exists to fit the mainstream functions, to create normalcy, routine, and success or

acceptance in popular culture. Their identity as a raver is engaged to suffice the needs of

creativity and reclaim their desires for extemporaneous happiness, fun, and collectivity.

This can be deemed escapism or alternative participation depending on the individual.

People need to feel accepted, yet they also need to feel different or special in

order to prevent boredom and pedestrianism. Exploring other cultural avenues can fulfill

human desires for electivity. Andrea summed the whole experience up and how

individual and collective cognizance occurs in the rave moment:

I let myself free, and fully and sensationally take in everything… I enjoy being

around everyone on the same level and [feeling] like it's a positive, communal

experience. There's something poetic about everyone jammin’ out together,

without caring or questioning [who] the other person is next to you. You're just

enjoying your own and everyone else's presence at that very moment. It helps me

to not really think, other than just the thought of appreciating being present.

This study suggests these participants engage in rave culture to get the chance to shed

their egos and individual identities in exchange for a collective, peaceful identity, to shift

away from the flaws of mainstream society, and to share an ephemeral transcendence,

even if only for the night.



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Interview Guide
Part I - Music

What distinguishes one DJ from another for you?

Do you have preferences in genre or just enjoy any kind of EDM?

Why is this genre of music particularly enjoyable for you at raves?

Do you decide upon the specific clubs and raves that you attend based upon music?

What do you do to experience the music more fully?

What happens when you love the music the most?

Is there any place mentally that you go to when experiencing the music?

What does the music make you think about?

What feelings come up or are suppressed when you are experiencing the music?

How do DJs play a role in your connection to the music or rave experience?

How do you find out about new music that you might later hear at a rave?

Part II - State of mind

What is the best mental state for raving?

If you were in a bad mental state would you rave? Would raving help or hurt the


Who do you prefer to rave with?

What happens when you rave with the people you are closest to or your preferred group?

What do you have in common with those that you rave with?

Have you ever raved with people you didn’t have much in common with? What


If you rave with strangers you meet at raves what are they usually like?

How is the experience of raving with strangers different from raving with friends?

Has being part of a big group ever created a special experience or feeling at a rave for


What are certain beliefs you find most ravers you come across to hold?

How do those ravers express those beliefs at raves?

What core beliefs of yours make raving important to you?

Part III - Bracelets

(Contingent upon if they trade kandi)

Why do you exchange kandi at raves?

How do you choose a partner with whom to trade with?

What does the kandi symbolize to you?

What does giving kandi express to others?

How or by what particular manner do you trade the kandi?

How does the process feel?

How does the completed exchange leave you feeling?

What do you enjoy about trading kandi?

Part IV- Drugs and Alcohol

(Contingent upon if they take drugs or drink alcohol)

Can you please describe the typical manner (either in a group or by yourself/pre-event

drinking behaviors) you would consume the drugs/alcohol in?

How do drugs and/or alcohol play a part in your rave experience?

What do the effects of these substances have at the rave?


Can you please tell me about a time when you were in a positive mood and you used

drugs and/or alcohol at a rave?

Can you please tell me about a time when you were in a negative mood and used drugs

and/or alcohol at a rave?

Part V - Clothes

What do you normally wear when you are raving?

Why do or why don’t you try to wear typical raving clothing?

Why do you think the typical neon color schema has remained over the years?

What messages do you think ravers send with their choice of clothing?

Part VI - Types of People

How would you describe your involvement in the rave scene?

Do you practice the ideals of rave culture in your real life or just at raves?

What types of people do you normally see at raves?

Can you please try to categorize them into groups or types?

How do you interact or view these different subgroups?

Do you find some groups to be more authentic than others? If so, who?

Part VI - Countries

What does it mean to be a raver in both countries?

Why do or why do you not think Americans believe in PLUR?

Why do or why do you not think Australians believe in PLUR?

What does or doesn’t PLUR or alternative means of conduct at raves mean in both


What is different about the experience of raving in both countries?


What activities or things ravers do, do you see as different?

What do you see as different between the music styles of both countries?

What spiritual aspects are different between the raving in both countries?

What is the most interesting thing you’ve seen at raves in both countries?

Is there a difference in the group mentality in these countries? If so what is the


Tell me about a story in which you thought one country’s rave scene was better than the

others and why?

Part VIII – Commercialization of EDM and PLUR

(Contingent upon if they see raving as becoming commercialized)

Do you think raving is becoming more commercial or mainstream?

Why do you think raving has become so mainstreamed?

How or in what ways do you find that raving is becoming mainstream or commercial?

Does the commerciality affect your enjoyment of the rave?

What changes when a rave is large and expensive to get in?

Do sales of swag and side-products make the scene more or less vital in your view?

What are the advantages of expanding the EDM audience to include more

people? Disadvantages?

Do you think raving is a social movement or a music trend/ fashion fad?

Contingency questions (for social movement)

What do you think the impact of popularization and commercialization is on the original

vision of the movement?

How do you think raving fits in with other social movements of the present or past?

What do you think this social movement is going to accomplish?

Why do some people think raving is a fad while you think it’s a social movement?

Contingency questions (for social fad):

What accounts for the popularity of the fad?

When do you think it will fade out? Why?

Why do some people think raving is a social movement when you think it’s a fad?