When Global Becomes Local
Rave Culture in Lithuania

Kristina Sliavaite

D-uppsats, 1998 - Handledare: Steven Sampson
Lund Universitet, Sociologiska Institutionen, Avd. för Socialantropologi


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1998 Kristina Sliavaite. Distributed by www.AnthroBase.com.
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Please note:
The text originally published at this location has been removed at the request of the author. It will within some time be replaced by a revised and shortened version. In the mean time, the author has supplied an abstract of the upcoming text, which gives an overview of the themes it will cover, as well as a short sample of the interview data on which it is based.


Dalius: "[The reason w]hy I liked and still like techno music... [is] because you feel, even if there is a huge mass of people... around you... whether you're in a dance hall or you're watching TV... [b]ut inside you, [you feel that you are] watching something new... For example, when I watched my first Mayday [rave] on TV... I felt somehow, I don’t know how to say it, I experienced something new... For me it was a spiritual experience [...] I think that in techno culture, when you dance, you want to close your eyes and be alone. Only the music is around you and somehow you just feel that you are alone."

Saulius: "Dancing is free, you do what you want. I like this feeling that you are an absolutely free person... You can come [to a party] without any knowledge of how to dance and just "let off steam". Nobody pays any attention to the way you are dancing..."

Mantas: "The absolute authenticity [of the rave movement in Lithuania]! Because... because, for example, how could you say how much authenticity there is in a table? Maybe the table was made in a factory, by mass production. Maybe the table was made by an artist. But a table is a table, right? If it's made by a master or by mass production, it's still a table. It's the same with rave..."

This is a shortened and revised version of an MA thesis in social anthropology, which was defended at the Department of Social Anthropology, Lund University, in 1998. The author documents rave (sub)culture in Lithuania in the late 1990's, when rave was very popular in this country. The main questions asked in the thesis were: What did it mean to be a raver (reiveris) in Lithuania at that time? Were there any specific features of rave (sub)culture in Lithuania? The main data come from anthropological fieldwork conducted by the author in Lithuania (Vilnius) in the beginning of 1998. The main fieldwork methods were observation, participant observation and fifteen unstructured interviews. The author aimed to present the voices of young people with different opinions about rave (sub)culture and its future: DJ's, techno fan club representatives, fans, as well as "common" consumers of the rave (sub)culture.

The paper analyses the main elements of the rave (sub)culture as they were defined and described by her informants: music, dance, techno philosophy, the experience of drugs, styles of dressing, ways of life. How did informants describe the music they enjoyed so much? Why was this music so important to young people? What were their experiences of dancing at rave parties? What was specific about dance at rave? How was the slogan of the global rave movement "Love, Peace, Unity" interpreted by ravers in Lithuania in the late 1990's? How did ravers dress in Lithuania at that time?

Some aspects of structure of prestige within the Lithuanian rave (sub)culture are discussed in other part of the paper. What was considered as "cool" (kieta) and "uncool" by ravers in Lithuania in the late 1990's? What was considered to be the "center" of this (sub)culture and what was relegated to its "periphery"? Where did informants draw the line between "underground" and "commerce"? Did "real" rave exist outside of a few main cities of Lithuania? Were girls perceived as "real", "cool" ravers? The concept of "subcultural capital", which was suggested by sociologist Sarah Thornton in her 1995 book "Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital" is employed in the discussion of these questions.

The author also discusses the ways in which the ravers depicted themselves in relation to certain other youth (sub)cultures or youth groups in Lithuania back then: urlaganai, hip-hop culture devotees (reperiai) and others. The ways in which the informants described themselves as similar to or different from other youth groups reveal much about their own virtues, ideals and understandings of what it means to be a raver. The informants constructed such oppositions as pacifism vs. violence, strength of mind (intelligence) vs. strength of body (force), progressive thinking vs. unprogressive thinking, the ethics of hard work vs. the ethics of street life.

The rave (sub)culture in Lithuania was often related to the West - by the ravers themselves and by others. Was there anything authentic or specific to the rave (sub)culture in Lithuania in this respert? What happens when a global phenomenon is appropriated locally? These questions are discussed at the end of the paper.