Gunduz, B. 2003. “Rave as Carnival.”

Gunduz, Burcu. 2003. “Rave as Carnival.” Masters Thesis. Bilkent University.

Contemporary rave scene as carnival-like demonstration: “where bodily suggestions in an unrestricted, non-official space taken into account from the point of communal grotesque body” (iii) — “where social borders and individual differences such as class and gender are destroyed and reconstructed in the ‘world upside down’ logic ideally and symbolically” (iv).

Blurring between performer and audience, full participation – construction of utopian sphere, “temporary liberation from the official seriousness to ‘bring down to earth’ anything ineffable or authoritarian to the bodily material level [of dance event]” (iii).

Hirschkop 1999 (285): “The popular festive ‘voice of the whole’ represents time as possibility and transformation. But it is not an end itself it serves a resource”.

“Rave is more than music plus drugs; it’s a matrix of lifestyle, ritualized behavior and beliefs.  To the participant, it feels like a religion; to the mainstream observer, it looks more like a sinister cult” (Reynolds 1999: 9)

*** DISAGREE: rave viewed as “a conscious rejection of traditional cultural expressions” (2) — current forms (in the nature of carnival concrete cultural expressions.

Rave as comprehensive – isn’t just the music performance – entertainment comes from entire experience, as non-hierarchal event, bounded by temporal and spatial limits. Audience is not observing, but participating, in dialogue with performers and are themselves performing.

Loss of self in ego-less, non-hierarchal space (aided by drugs) may act as site of potential change (see also Rietveld 1998). Participation across demographics, deconstructing political and social affiliations – offering new insights.

Carnival as “a mixture of rituals, games, symbols and various carnal excesses, which constitute an alternative ‘social space’ for freedom, abundance and equality” (7).

— celebrates a “temporary liberation from the prevailing truth and from the established order” […] marks “the suspension of all hierarchical rank, privileges, norms, and prohibitions” (Bakhtin 1968: 10) – resisting mainstream norms, temporarily.

*** DISAGREE: “The irony of [… ecstasy use] is that working-class boys lose their ‘aggro’ and become ‘new men’ not through the critique of masculinity which accompanies… changing modes of femininity…, but through the use of Ecstasy they undergo a conversion to the soft, the malleable, and the sociable rather than the antisocial, and through the most addictive pleasures of dance they also enter into a different relationship with their own bodies, more tactile, more sensuous, less focused around sexual gratification… Rave favours groups and friends rather than couples or those in search of a partner” (McRobbie 1993: 419 – here 10).

“carnival is not a spectacle seen by people; they live in it, and everybody participates because its very idea embraces all the people” (Bakhtin 1968: 10) – each person dancing, dressing, co-existing, co-performing.

Origins of rave in Britain – took place in warehouses, fields (Hutson 2000) – movement into nightclubs by early 1990s. Gay origins and revolution/popularization of house music. Songs flow from one to another, emphasizing continuity. “… pure physical abandon in the company of others without requiring the narrative of sex or romance” (McRobbie 1994: 169).

Hanna (1991) : “Dance, music and song often encode messages from such patterns of social relations as hierarchy, inclusion-exclusion, and exchanges across social boundaries” (179).

Rave as “… a threat to the symbolic order… No meaning could be found other than pure escape, suggestion perhaps, a type of tourism” (Rietveld 1993: 43).

“Club cultures are riddled with cultural hierarchies” (Thorton 1996: 3) – dividing between “the authentic versus the phoney, the ‘hip’ versus the ‘mainstream’, and the ‘underground’ versus ‘the media’ (ibid: 4).

However, previous subculture scenes have denied “unsupervised adventures” for women (33) – as previous subcultures framed by masculinity, anger, rebellion — feminization in subculture due to happiness, friendliness, dance…. “These terms unavoidably puts the rave scene in the discourse of femininity and gay male culture” (34).

Pini: rave erodes “traditional cultural associations between dancing, drugged, ‘dressed-up’ women and sexual invitations” MISSING CITE. Raves as challenging to masculinity’s centrality to subculture – as a means to construct new forms of women’s identity and pleasure.

Carnival as “an officially sanctioned period in which all dogmas and doctrines, as well as the forms and ideologies of the dominant culture […] could temporarily be overturned” (38).

Russo (1995): “The masks and voices of carnival resist, exaggerate, and destabilize distinctions and boundaries that mark and maintain high culture and organized society” (61).

*** THINKING POINT: “Carnival embodied the temporary rebellion not only of the lower classes, but also of the lower faculties, of instinct against reason, of flesh against spirit. The power of carnival to turn things upside down is facilitated by bringing about a reversal of the officially sanctioned precedent, the paradigmatic patterns of though and codes of behavior of the people who are the representatives of the dominant ideology, expressed through official and popular culture” (42, see also Bakhtin 1968).

Carnival as facilitating contact between those separated by hierarchies, promoting collective, mass action, bonding together items that might be considered opposite, making the sacred everyday, promoting use of humor and parody to understand sacredness, cultural values. A place where “dream and reality are interchangeable and indistinguishable” (Thornton 1996: 57)

“In the carnival, everything is permissible: as if all existing differences between social orders are temporarily obliterated. Members of all social strata mix, they joke and cavort in a mood of carefree abandon and ‘universal good humour’ … An abundance of elaborate costumes, satirical masks, clowns, and fools, musical instruments of every kind, giants and banners complete the scene” (Goethe 1970:137).

Unofficial carnival: “carnival […] is an attitude toward the world which liberates from fear, brings the world close down to man and man close to his fellow man (all is drawn into the zone of liberated familiar contact), and with its joy of change and its jolly relativity, counteracts the gloomy, one-sided official seriousness which is born of fear, is dogmatic and inimical to evolution and change, and seeks to absolutize the given conditions of existence and the social order. The carnival attitude liberated man from precisely this sort of seriousness” (Bakhtin 1973: 133).


“Carnival was the true feast of becoming, change, and renewal” (Bakhtin 1968: 10) – a degradation of propriety, high culture, values (THINKING POINT: political correctness, emancipatory movements?) — breaking free from linear time through music sampling (across decades, etc.)


“Within this secondary space, participants are free from their responsibilities of everyday life.  Here one can fantasize about true love and freedom from responsibility. They may separate themselves from the world economy, create a mythology and statement. Become ‘temporarily euphoric’.” (59)


Carnival acts to transgress the body and its limits – interchange facilitated (THINKING POINT – sensuality, freedom of female body?)  —– “defending the people’s creativity in non-official forms” (NO CITE – Bakhtin, seek out). Rave’s partial sanction by the state (through official events, flexible policing), differs from the autonomous (ish, still sanctioned by church and state).  — where “the everyday is disrupted, the mundane is forgotten and the ecstatic becomes possible” (Malbon 1999: 164). — “an escape attempt, a temporary relief from other facets and identities of an individual clubber’s own life” (Malbon 1999: 164)

Breaking of norms, but not without law – carnival is subject to the “the laws of its own freedom” (Bakhtin 1968: NO PAGE CITE) — “forming a tight group that is obedient to its own internal logic, rather than to the state” (Rietveld 1998: 258).


Jefferson (1989: 154) — “the self (subject) experiences himself and the world quite differently from the way in which he is experienced and perceived by others, and this difference is centered on the body. The subject’s position in the world is determined by his body, and it is from its vantage point that his gaze embraces a world which sees as if from a frontier”.


Policing of negativity: “… a theme of ‘positivity’, which is simultaneously a ‘policing’ of negativity. This ‘ethics of pleasure’ is highlighted in a number of interviewee accounts which stress the importance of the right attitude, which includes avoiding the power of ‘negative vibes’ to ‘bring you down’ (and which seems, at times, to mean refusing to acknowledge ‘difference’ or tensions)” (Pini 1997: 162)


*** DISAGREE: “Young women, always keen adherents of dance, and in clubbing an environment where they can express their sexuality without putting themselves at risk from unwanted male attention. This produces the spectacle of ‘rave girls in hot pants and bra tops, dancing with a ‘dummy’ in their mouths and a whistle around their necks’, a considerable innovation in ‘the visual repertoire of stylish femininity’” (72 — see also Critcher 2000, quote from McRobbie 1994: 169)


Rave still exists as “a male site of experience” (Pini CITE) – women removed from music production, event organization, drug distribution, profit – unisexuality of clothing *** DISAGREE, merging or purposeful ignoring of gender, according to McRobbie – acts as “a suspension of categories, there is not such a rigid demarcation along age, class, ethnic terms. Gender is blurred and sexual preference less homogenously heterosexual” (1984: 146).


*** AGREE: “A Bakhtinian analysis does not suggest that contemporary dance culture has successfully altered gender relationships, merely that, within the spatial and temporal limitations of the contemporary dance floor, there is an overriding tendency to subvert traditional relationships” (75)


Pini 1997: rave erodes individual difference, negates objectification of the ‘other’ for women — provides a new ‘gaze’ – “new modes of looking which is not based on objectification or separation rather than a sense of unity” (75-76).

— “In this sense, the rave dance-floor breaks down the divide between audience and performer and provides the possibility of being both simultaneously” (Pini 1997: 165). Redhead — women’s dance in rave as non-exhibitionist, non-sexual. Rave, thus, presents “a fracturing of the conventions which have commonly structured the body in dance in pop history.  Instead of, as usual, the female body being subjected to the ever-present ‘look’, the dancers … turned in on themselves, imploding the meanings previously associated with exhibitionist dance.  In Acid House, and connected scenes, dancing no longer solely represented the erotic display of the body” (Redhead 1990: 6)


*** DISAGREE: by definition, carnival is a play where there is not superiority of participation – where all are equally participant and observer — not true in contemporary festival-rave.


*** DISAGREE: “Carnival-like rave does not acknowledge individual differences between its participants because in the carnival sense of the world, there are no individual bourgeoisie [,] rather a dialogic community involves [involving] every kind of people, black and white, gay and straight, rule and ruled, good and evil with a sense of ‘gay relativity’ (83).


*** Thinking point: “Dance operates as a metaphor for an external reality which is unconstrained by the limits and expectations of gender identity and which successfully and relatively painlessly transports its subjects from a passive to a more active psychic position” (McRobbie 1991: 201).


Garrat (1998): “At their best, clubs are places where the marginalized can feel at home, where we can experiment with new identities, new ways of being. They are places where cultures collide, where people dance alongside each other and then, when they meet again in the world outside, understand each other a little better” (321).


Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1973. Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics. Trans. R.W. Rotsel. Ann Arbor: Ardis.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1968. Rabelais and His World. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Critcher, Chas. 2000. “Still Raving: Social Reaction to Ecstasy.” Leisure Studies 19: 145-162.

Garrat, Sheryl. 1998. Adventures in Wonderland: A Decade of Club Culture. London: Headline.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. 1970. Italian Journey 1786-1788. London: Penguin.

Hanna, Judith Lynne. 1991. “Moving Messages: Identity and Desire in Popular Music and Social Dance.” PAGES in Popular Music and Communication, edited by James Lull. New Delhi: Sage.

Jefferson, Ann. 1989. “Bodymatters: Self and Other in Bakhtin, Satre and Barthes.” PAGES in Bakhtin and Cultural Theory, edited by AUTHOR.  Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Hirschkop, Ken. 1999. Mikhail Bakhtin: An Aesthetic for Democracy.  Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press.

Hutson, Scott R. 2000. “The Rave: Spiritual Healing in Modern Western Subcultures.” Anthropological Quarterly 73(1): PAGES.

Malbon, Ben. 1999. Clubbing: Dancing, Ecstasy and Vitality. London: Routledge.

McRobbie, Angela. 1994. Postmodernism and Popular Culture. London: Routledge.

McRobbie, Angela. 1993. “Shut Up and Dance: Youth Culture and Changing Modes of Femininity.” Cultural Studies 17(3): PAGES.

McRobbie, Angela. 1991. “Feminism and Youth Culture: From Jacki to Just Seventeen.” (BOOK?) Houndsmills: MacMillan.

McRobbie, Angela. 1984. Gender and Generation. Basingstoke: MacMillan.

Pini, Maria. 1997. “Women and the Early British Rave Scene.” PAGES in Back to Reality: Social Experience and Cultural Studies, edited by Angela McRobbie. New York: Manchester University Press.

Redhead, Steve. 1990. The End-of-the-Century Party: Youth and Pop toward 2000. Manchester, Manchester University Press.

Reynolds, Simon. 1999. Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. New York: Routledge.

Rietveld, Hillegonda. 1998. “Repetitive Beats: Free Parties and the Politics of Contemporary DiY Dance Culture in Britain.” (PAGES) in DiY Culture: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain, edited by George McKay. London: Verso.

Rietveld, Hillegonda. 1993. “Living the Dream.” PAGES in Rave Off: Politics and Deviance in Contemporary Youth Culture, edited by Steve Redhead. Hampshire: Avebury.

Russo, Mary. 1995. The Female Grotesque: Risk, Excess and Modernity. New York: Routledge.

Thornton, Sarah. 1996. Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital. London: Wesleyan University Press.


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