Date of Award

Spring 2012

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Michele Dillon


Contemporary communities are no longer necessarily bound by the confines of a specific locality due to spatial mobility. My dissertation examines if and how mobile individuals may create community, the culture of one group, and the significance of place amidst mobility for creating community in modernity. I analyzed three years of ethnographic field notes and 44 interviews with individuals who attend the yearly arts event Burning Man in the Nevada desert. After the event, these burners return to their home environments, most of which are on the American west coast, but also spend a significant portion of their time traveling the world. I argue that regardless of the degree of spatial mobility, individuals in the extended global Burning Man community share common values, take part in relationships of mutual support, and have greater group commitments as a community. I focus on the urban context of Portland, Oregon and the role that place plays for mobile communities. I found that mobile actors create community by: (1) Turning the once place-based conception of the term into a group of collectively held action-oriented principles that include shared values and ideologies, identities, commitments, and lifestyles [and] (2) Transforming a variety of spaces into symbolic places of the community that help develop the solidarities of different extensions of the mobile group and provide sites of cultural integration. These places provide physical localities with which to produce and practice their counterculture, contribute to cultural integration and diffusion of various urban cultures, assist in the construction of a collective community identity, and reinforce a sense of mobile community belonging.