Jessica McCaffrey

Jessica McCaffrey is a Masters Candidate at Concordia University in the field of Social and
Cultural Anthropology. Her research examines the countercultural event called Burning Man
through the lens of the ritual process. Through the personal narratives of six main collaborators
as well as her own ethnographic experiences, Jessica’s work outlines how participation in
countercultural social networks and events may lead to the creation of alternative moral
practices which ultimately fuel the creation of communities. These communities do not
organize according to conventional definitions of community and are often spontaneous
and temporary. These spaces have been called Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ). TAZs
allow participants to re-imagine and re-invent the rules for collective belonging and re-
constitute what community is and how it is experienced. Many informants have stressed how
important their socio-sensual experiments at Burning Man have been to the development of
alternative moral practices. Burning Man, as an axis mundi of countercultural production and
reproduction, can therefore be viewed as a pilgrimage which teaches initiates how to embody
countercultural moral practices in everyday life, these practices are embedded in new social
movements whose aims are to revitalize cultural values through the lifeworlds of participants.
Jessica defended her master’s thesis with success in August 2012 and received her master’s
degree at Fall Convocation.