Burning Man: Transformation Through Experience

Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


First Advisor

Ann Kakaliouras


This research is focused on the community and ethos of the counter-cultural event Burning Man and its purpose is to study the personal lives and experiences of Burners (participants of Burning Man) and how this event has come to impact them. Burning Man is an annual event held each year in the middle of the Black Rock Desert NV, one of the most inhospitable environments in the world. In this environment a seemingly impossible thing occurs: out of the desert springs the third largest city in Nevada for one week out of the year and in this city transformational experiences can happen. By using a mixed methods research design consisting of surveys and interviews I found that this event does in fact have a meaningful impact on peoples’ lives; how exactly it impacts them depends on the individual. My research is being conducted to help erase the stigma that has begun to surround this festival, that most people come to view it as a giant party in the desert when in reality it is much more than just that. Using a mixed methods research design I surveyed 50 participants and interviewed 6 of these individuals. What I found is that Burning Man is a place where people can be true to themselves, and in doing so many people find their lives changed forever by participating in this liminal world.


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