By Casey C.
Electronic dance music (EDM) is a supergenre of music that includes club music, dance music, electro house, and other similar subgenres. The shorthanded, simplified summary of such music is synthesized music, normally played and created by DJs in clubs and at live shows, designed to stimulate the senses. The acronym “EDM” is relatively new, essentially coined in 2010 by marketers who wanted to a) draw a distinction between 1990s raves and “new” raves to appeal to the younger generation, and b) avoid the drug use stigmas that had been associated with raves since their inception – “EDM” was a new, fresh word, devoid of any connotations that might spook local police, parents, or club owners. Unsurprisingly, the drug use – particularly that of ecstasy – is still hugely prevalent – and now much more noticeable due to the huge rising popularity of EDM. A poststructuralist and a structural-functionalist anthropologist might explain EDM culture in very different ways.
A poststructuralist like Michel Foucault, on one hand, believes that power is integral to the discussion of culture and anthropological study. Attendees at EDM concerts dress counter to what is considered “normal” in everyday society, often wearing little clothes and neon, glow-in-the-dark colors. The use of ecstasy is hugely prevalent, in more volume than any other drug and arguably in more volume that at shows for other music genres. These behaviors – the discourse of the EDM club – might be displays of resistance to the hegemony (in many attendees’ cases, the hegemon is likely just the set of values imposed on them by their parents). The poststructuralist would argue perhaps that in some way, the older generation’s rules and expectations are oppressive to the younger, and that EDM is one outlet for the younger to express their individuality, their “youngness,” et cetera. A corollary to this might be that in fact EDM is not resistance to the older generation’s hegemonic views at all; but rather an enactment of the hegemonic ideology among young people that drugs are normal and expected as a part of youth, that music and partying are integral parts of growing up, et cetera.
Contrarily, a structural-functionalist anthropologist like A.R. Radcliffe-Brown would argue that EDM culture was an integral cog in the Western societal machine. In this view, the rave would be a social institution with certain social norms (e.g., “at raves, we do ‘molly’”), which attendees must enact and uphold in order to maintain their social status and perform their roles. The motives for both a) attending the rave, and b) doing ecstasy while there, are nearly irrelevant to this model. An anthropologist like Radcliffe-Brown or Evans-Pritchard would simply say that it is one of young people’s functions in society to attend raves, and within the society of the rave, it is one of their functions to do drugs of some sort. While it is possible to analyze EDM culture and ecstasy use through the structural-functionalist lens, I would argue that the poststructuralist model offers a more enlightening perspective.
 http://www.factmag.com/2013/07/10/the-fact-dictionary-how-dubstep-juke-cloud-rap-and-many-more-got-their-names/6/. Accessed 12 November 2014.