Brunsma, D.L., N.G. Chapman, J.S. Lellock. 2016. “Racial Ideology in Electronic Dance Music Promotional Videos.”

Brunsma, David L., Nathaniel G. Chapman, and J. Slade Lellock. 2016. “Racial Ideology in Electronic Dance Music Promotional Videos.” Pp. 148-161 in Race and Contention in Twenty-First Century U.S. Media, edited by Jason Smith and Bhoomi K. Thakore.  New York: Routledge.

  • EDM has had an astounding increase in worldwide popularity, from its origins in discos (1960s), clubs (1970s), house parties (1980s), and warehouse raves (1990).
  • Heavy commercialization in mid-2000s to elevate it to worldwide popular music
  • EDM strongly tied to college-age demographics (McGrath 2013) – are 55% male, 45% female, and 63% White (Nielson Reports 2014)
  • Economically valued to be in the billions (McGrath 2013), especially given the festivalization of EDM culture – possibly worth over $6 billion, with $1.03 billion generated by festivals alone (Hampp 2014)
  • Scarce study of racial dynamics of EDM, despite its origins with people of color
  • Use of color-blindness as racial ideology (Bonilla-Silva 2010), narratives of Whiteness (Hughey 2014), and racialized aesthetics of late capitalism (Desmond and Emirbayer 2009)
  • Principles of PLUR (Lorenz 2014) manifested through material artifacts and embodied rituals (Lorenz 2014; St John 2006) – something to immerse oneself in as an act of freedom, expression, catharsis, solidarity (Tomlinson 1998)
  • Contemporary EDM as strongly connected to festival experience (Feinstein and Ramsay 2012)
  • Festivals “may be arts events, community celebrations, or political or commercial events designed to promote a particular idea or specific products” (Richards 2011: 259) – becoming “more external to the communities that produce them” (Richards 2011: 260).
  • attendance at top global festivals moved from 1.9 million circa 2009 to 3.4 million in 2013 (Kiendl 2013)
  • Victor Turner (1982): a “timeless zone, a space of disorder and indeterminancy where dancers (neophytes and experienced) are licensed to experiment with their other selves” – “rave is an explosive importation of the carnivalesque into the contemporary – a popular mode of subversive play, of the ‘subjunctive mood’” (83).
  • Carnivalesque manifested through “’freaky’ costumes, skillful acrobatic displays and fire-twirling, kaleidoscopic light shows, and elaborately constructed soundscapes and art spaces” (Tramacchi 2006: 140) – a “scaling-up” of the events of the 1990s
  • “Modern EDM festivals push the boundaries of sensory experience using state-of-the-art sound and lighting technology, pyrotechnics, carnival rides, performance art, and a plethora of other sensory experiences” (151).
  • Gauthier (2004): festival takes on life of own “by opening up to creativity, by staging an otherly, unlicensed, temporary world, the festive need only to contain itself. Disengaging from temporality, the festive bursts into an ‘eternal’ – or, to be more precise, ‘indefinite’ – present” (69).
  • St John (2006): “such experiences potentiate the transgression of imposed morality, exemplifying the expression of ‘passional’ or ‘orgiastic’ behavior” (6).
  • Fraser (2012): “there is an inevitable politics of space within EDM [….] these issues call into question the too-often taken-for-granted notion that EDM is about PLUR” (503).
  • Saldanha (2005) – racist attitudes of EDM (particularly Goa Freaks) lead to “sensuous configurations” of race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and region, within hedonistic spaces (see also Fraser 2012) – these are “generative of exclusion as well as inclusion, closure as well as openness” (Fraser 2012: 503).
  • Bonilla-Silva (2010) – color-blind ideology understands racial inequality of non-racial dynamics, in a “post-racial” society that renders race subtle and institutionally-pervasive.
    • Frames of color-blindness (“set paths for interpreting received racial information” – here 152): abstract liberalism (equal opportunity, individualism, choice, meritocracy); naturalization (inequality as result of natural rather than social processes); cultural racism (inherent cultural differences that lead to inequality); and minimization of racism (“fair playing field”, equal opportunities, denial of contemporary racism).
    • Color-blind ideology (as part of racial institution) “blocks Whites from seeing themselves as racialized, as active agents in the racialized social structure, as group-advantaged, and thus seeing any benefit to them (Whites) of even discussing race. It also disengages them from understanding that racism affect us all” (152).
    • Color-blindness investigated as speech acts, narratives, “race talk,” media-mediated narratives like film (Hughey 2014), news (Drew 2011) and music lyrics (Rodriquez 2006).


  • Schnettler and Raab (2008) – use and analysis of visual data within social sciences as underutilized, neglected, undertheorized.


  • videos featured intense colors, amusement park rides, and focus on women’s bodies and their sexuality – however, with women narrating the video.
  • Escalation of “the carnivalesque, the burlesque, the hyper-festivalization, and the emergence of costuming, staging, and props” in subsequent years — “intensification of female sexuality, women’s barely covered bodies, and sexual innuendo, evidenced by close-up shots of individual or small groups of dancing women, presumably for the heterosexual male gaze” (155).
  • uncovering the “White aesthetic” in cultural texts means looking for absences – who isn’t there? (Desmond and Emirbayer 2009)
  • The White racial frame (see Feagin 2010) -aka White aesthetic – frequently depicts Non-Whites in stereotypical and negative ways, if Non-Whites appear at all. When Non-White people/bodies are featured, it marks the lack of control they have over media representation.
  • DJs as overwhelmingly male and White, crowd as subjectively white, featuring very few audience members or performers of color.
  • Professional dancers featured in videos: all female, nearly 90% White – “White-wigged burlesque, painted-face women with 60s mod-boots; a bikinied, acrobat woman spinning in a hoop; White, face-painted catwomen with small black hats; people in full-bodied orange rubber suits; bikini-clad cage dancers; yellow-wigged, painted-faced women with pink tutus; a White woman with dreadlocks in a robot-bikini; fishnet-wearing, striped-bikinied ballerinas; mini-skirted women en masse on stage; and colorful clown women with wigs and colored nose balls” (156-157).
  • The two featured Non-White performers were an Asian-American woman “whose face was painted White in a Japanese Kabuki style, with make-up in addition to highlight eye slant, twirling a yellow umbrella” and a Black woman “on stage during the night, silhouetted with a yellow bikini and doing a fast-paced tribally influenced dance for the attendees” (157) —- alluring and submissive/aggressive, performing raced, gendered sexualities that play to White, heteronormative gazes.


The Four Frames of Color-blind Ideology

  1. Abstract Liberalism: individualism, choice – “attendees can be anything where they want to be, dress anyway they wish to dress, make any choice they wish to make, express their individual desires while maintaining a collective connection to the beat” (157) – pursuing a racial utopia, absence of POC to construct ideals of unity?
  2. Cultural Difference: representations of stereotypical POC, Whites performing race – a “doing of race” – while simultaneously partaking in cultural appropriation — this “cultural co-optation as a result of the hyper commercialization of cultural products and the resultant commodification of style and identity” (158, see also Kortaba, Merrill, Williams, and Vannini 2013).
  3. Minimization of race – “unification” – one does/should not see race at EDC – although this has serious implications as to who is/not included, represented, and afforded in EDM.
  4. Naturalization of difference – lack of Non-White presence, DJ headliners of color, Whiteness of EDC as “just the way things are” — promotional videos aim to sell a product, here a White product — “Yet, color-blindness demands that the promotion keeps these factors invisible” (158). — EDC attracts Non-White festival-goers, and hires Non-White performers; however, this is not what is featured within promotional videos.


Bonilla-Silva, E. 2010. Racism without Racists. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Desmond, M. and M. Emirbayer. 2009. Racial Domination, Racial Progress: The Sociology of Race in America. New York: McGraw Hill.

Drew, E.M. 2011. “’Coming to Terms with Our Own Racism’: Journalists Grapple with the Racialization of Their News.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 28(4): 353-373.

Feagin, J. 2010. The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing. New York: Routledge.

Feinstein, D. and C. Ramsay. 2012, November 8. “The Rise of EDM.” Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Fraser, A. 2012. “The Spaces, Politics, and Cultural Economies of Electronic Dance Music.”  Geography Compass 6(8): 500-511.

Gauthier, F. 2004. “Rapturous Ruptures: The ‘Instituant’ Religious Experience of Rave.” Pp. 65-84 in Rave Culture and Religion, edited by G. St John. London, UK: Routledge.

Hampp, A. 2014, May 21. “EDM Biz Worth $6.2 Billion.” Billboard.” Retrieved from

Hughey, M. 2014. The White Savior Film: Content, Critics, and Consumption. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Kiendl, W. 2013, December. “The Economics of EDM.” The Music Business Journal. Retrieved from

Kortaba, J.A., B. Merrill, J.P. Williams, and P. Vannini. 2013. Understanding Society through Popular Music. New York: Routledge.

Lorenz, N. 2014. The Power of PLUR: EDMC as a Reflection of a New Generation. Senior Project. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

McGrath, M. 2013, November 4. “EDM-Obsessed Millennials Boost SFX Entertainment Outlook.” Forbes.  Retrieved from

Nielsen. 2014, July 10. “Who Is the Electronic Music Listener?” Nielsen. Retrieved from

Richards, G. 2011. “The Festivalization of Society or the Socialization of Festivals? The Case of Catalunya.” Pp. 257-280 in Cultural Tourism: Global and Local Perspectives, edited by G. Richards. New York: Routledge.

Rodriquez, J. 2006. “Color-blind Ideology and the Cultural Appropriation of Hip-Hop.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 35(6): 645-668.

Saldanha, A. 2005. “Trance and Visibility at Dawn: Racial Dynamics in Goa’s Rave Scene.” Social & Cultural Geography 6(5): 707-721.

Schnettler, B. and J. Raab. 2008. “Interpretative Visual Analysis Developments: State of the Art and Pending Problems.” Forum: Qualitative Social Research 9(3): Retrieved from

St John, G. (Editor.) 2006. Rave Culture and Religion. London, UK: Routledge.

Tomlinson, L. 1998. “This Ain’t No Disco… Or Is It? Youth Culture and the Rave Phenomenon.”  Pp. 195-211 in Youth Culture: Identity in a Postmodern World, edited by J. Epstein.  Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Tramacchi, D. 2006. “Entheogenic Dance Ecstasis: Cross-Cultural Contexts.” Pp. 125-144 in Rave Cultural and Religion, edited by G. St John. London, UK: Routledge.

Turner, V. 1982. From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications.


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