Fierce Tribe

The Fierce Tribe
Mickey Weems
6x9, 240 pages, photos

Published: 2008

ISBN 978-0-87421-691-2
cloth $36.95

ISBN 978-0-87421-692-9
e-book $25.95

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Mickey Weems

Mickey Weems is the editor of the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Gay Folklife.

The Fierce Tribe

Masculine Identity and Performance in the Circuit

Mickey Weems

It's like we are all some ancient tribe doing a ceremonial mating dance . . . it's a truly spiritual experience.
—Blake Baker, Dallas

In this ethnography that documents the folk nature of popular culture, Mickey Weems applies interdisciplinary interpretation to a subject that demands such a breakdown of intellectual boundaries. The Circuit, an expression of gay culture, comprises large dance events—gatherings, celebrations, communions, festivals. Music and dance drive complex, shared performances—electronic house music played by professional DJs and mass ecstatic dancing that engenders communitas. Other performances, from drag queens and concerts to contests, theatrics, and the individual display of muscular bodies are part of the festivities.

Body sculpting through muscle building is strongly associated with the Circuit, and masculine aggression is both displayed and parodied. Weems, a participant-observer with a multidisciplinary background in anthropology, folklore, religious studies, cultural studies, and somatic studies, considers the cultural and ethical dimensions of what to outsiders might seem to be just wild, flamboyant parties. He compares the Circuit to other traditions of ecstatic and communal dance, and uses his grounding in African-Brazilian Candomblé and in religious studies to illuminate spiritual experiences reported by Circuit participants. And, as a U.S. Marine, he offers the nonviolent masculine arrogance of Circuiteers as an alternative to the violent forms of masculine aggression embedded in the military and much of western culture.

Book Review Western Folklore (pdf) volume 69, issue 1, Winter 2010 / Jay Mechling