Harry Edwards completed his BA in History and Politics at the University of East Anglia in 2015 and later completed his master’s in Global History at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2020. His research focuses on how electronic dance musics transfer, translate, and transform knowledge as they travel around the world.
Dancing at the End of the World: Counterculture, Intimacy and Historical Consciousness on Rave Dancefloors, 1986 - 1994
This project investigates the experience of historical consciousness on the dancefloor between the emergence of acid house in Britain in the mid-1980s and the passing of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (CJA). Accessed through recorded music, surviving radio broadcasts, images, and video footage, as well as newly available archival sources, contemporary media, and oral history interviews, it will recontextualise what is often regarded as the “golden age” of rave. How did intimate emotional experiences of the dancefloor, sound system and drug consumption elicit historical consciousness in this formative period of rave? Deploying a flexible historical anthropological methodology, the project aims to retrieve the webs of meaning around different acid house and rave dancefloors to address alternative experiences shaped by gender, sexuality, race, and class. What emerges in common between different actors ranging from dancers, DJs, music producers, artists, journalists, and party organisers, is an historical understanding of rave straddling one global social and political epoch and of dancing in a possible new future. The exact articulation of this relationship to past, present, and future, in particular its relationship to ideas of love, freedom, blackness, pleasure, and counterculture, is the explicit focus of this project. This research therefore moves beyond the debate about the legacy of acid house in the United Kingdom and provides a new angle that complements existing histories of electronic dance music, British cultural history, and theoretical debates in ethnomusicology and sound studies on the ability of music to transfer sonic and bodily forms of knowledge.