- Burning Man Organization
Change the "Cargo Cult" Burning Man Theme
We would like to register our disappointment with this years' theme.
The use of a colonial term for Indigenous religious practices for the theme of Burning Man is offensive and not in line with Burning Man principles of radical inclusion. Further, the emphasis placed on "cargo cults" in the South Pacific by the theme announcement encourages event-goers to appropriate and misinterpret Indigenous culture from that region. The region, history and culture referred to in the announcement are complex, and respect for the violence done to the Indigenous people of the South Pacific requires pause before appropriating cultural traditions from the area. The theme announcement, with its unnuanced summation of the "cargo cults," frames American people as the technologically-superior benevolent savior-gods and native people as naive, wide-eyed primitives. It reinforces myths which justify colonialism historically and contemporarily.
Much as we would protest a party with a "Cowboys and Indians" theme, our community protests the use of a theme that encourages mockery, misinterpretation and appropriation of Indigenous culture.
The following articles are for reference:
The text of the theme announcement: http://burningman.com/art_of_burningman/bm13_theme.html
A primer on cultural appropriation: http://jezebel.com/5959698/a-much+needed-primer-on-cultural-appropriation
The beginning of a longer anthropological article discussing the inaccuracy of the phrase "cargo cult": http://pages.vassar.edu/marthakaplan/files/2012/03/Kaplan-Website-NCNC-2-chapters-OCR.pdf
An excellent critique of the theme from a blogger: http://miniver.blogspot.com/2012/12/cargo-cult.html