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electronic dance culture
ESRC Festival of Social Science

Press Release - 07 March 2007

Electronic dance exhibition to help public explore new social theories

An exhibition looking at today’s electronic dance culture will be showcased in Bristol next week to help people understand theories of modern tribalism.

Dr Sarah Riley, a psychology lecturer at the University of Bath, and her husband, artist Richard Brown, have put together a multi-media exhibition to help explain the theories of French sociologist, Michel Maffesoli.

Drawing on Dr Riley’s research interests in electronic dance culture, the exhibition examines clubbing, raving and partying through the lens of Maffesoli’s neo-tribal theory.

This is the idea that contemporary society is composed of new forms of tribes defined, for example, by location, interest or relationship.

The exhibition, organised as part of the Economic & Social Research Council Festival of Social Science, uses text, photographs and installations to convey key themes of neo-tribal theory (such as proximity, emotionality and tribalism) and explore youth culture, identity and participation in electronic dance culture.

The free exhibition will run from Friday 16 March to Sunday 18 March 2007 in the Paintworks Exhibition Centre on Bath Road in Bristol. (opening times: Friday 6pm to midnight, Saturday, 12pm to 11pm and Sunday 12pm-4pm.)

Whilst Dr Riley has been behind the sociology of the exhibition, Mr Brown, an award-winning artist who studied art at Bath Spa University, has been the creative force behind the artwork.

“Maffesoli’s neo-tribal theory is an important new way of thinking about the society in which we live,” said Dr Riley.

“Many people are worried that we are becoming increasingly individualised in our society, but Maffesoli paints a very different picture, saying that we form groups of tribes with people we have things in common with.

“Electronic dance culture seems to be a great way to illustrate this theory, and the ESRC Festival of Social Science is a good opportunity to take these ideas to a much wider audience.”

Other free events that are taking place during the ESRC Festival of Social Science in Bath include:

What is wellbeing in developing countries? Friday 16 March 2007, 11:00 – 13:00, University of Bath
This morning event comprises an exhibition and interactive event aimed at schoolchildren from local schools. It aims to explore how wellbeing is achieved in developing countries and how different cultures pursue their own wellbeing. These broad themes will be further explored in an afternoon session aimed at a general audience. Contact: Jane French 01225 383 558

What is wellbeing in developing countries? Friday 16 March 2007, 14:00 – 16:00, University of Bath
This public lecture will consider means of defining wellbeing in developing countries. It will bring together themes discussed in an event held earlier in the day aimed at schoolchildren from local schools. That earlier exhibition and interactive event will explore how wellbeing is achieved in developing countries and how different cultures pursue their own wellbeing. Jane French 01225 383 558

Global citizenship education: sharing perspectives Wednesday 14 March 2007, 11:15 – 17:00, University of Bath
The objective of this workshop is to stimulate debate and discussion about global citizenship education practice. It aims to bring together those linked to international education initiatives (International schools/the International Baccalaureate) with those more rooted in development education (Non-governmental organisation work/ Department for International Development-funded projects). Key individuals from both fields will contribute. Contact: Harriet Marshall 01225 386 337

Evolution and the social sciences Wednesday 14 March 2007, 16:00 – 18:00, University of Bath
A debate between eminent social scientists on whether evolutionary thinking, specifically Darwinism, has anything to offer the study of society, followed by open discussion. Reading materials, providing background on the main strands of current thinking, will be available before the debate. Refreshments will follow the debate. Contact: Denise Dant 0118 9533770


The Festival of Social Science is organised by the Economic & Social Research Council, and runs from 9-18 March alongside National Science & Engineering Week. It celebrates some of the very best British social science research, as well as highlighting the ways in which social science makes a difference to everyday lives.

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