Spaces of Play: The Spatial Dimensions of Underground Club Culture and Locating the Subjunctive


  • Alice O'Grady University of Leeds


Psytrance, play, performance, playful arena, subjunctivity, liminality, festival, protest, transformation.


This article examines the interrelated concepts of space, play and performativity in relation to the underground club scene in the UK. Grounded in the discipline of performance studies, this article uses the lens of play to identify how the spatial characteristics of underground dance culture provide a fertile terrain for performative acts of collectivity and expression. Resonating with previous EDMC scholarship that invokes concepts of liminality and the social dimensions of “spontaneous communitas”, the physical and psychical dimensions of play will be considered. Applying Turner’s work on subjunctivity (1982) and Jill Dolan’s concept of “utopian performatives” (2005) in relation to the psytrance scene, the article positions the underground party as a playful arena, a spatial construct that offers a context for moments of individual and collective transformation that are expressed and experienced performatively. 

Author Biography

Alice O'Grady, University of Leeds

Alice O'Grady is a lecturer in Applied Performance and Intervention at the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds, UK. Her research deals with interactive performance and play theory particularly within underground club culture and contemporary music festivals. Much of her work is site-sensitive and examines the relationship between space, context and identity. 






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