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THE CULTURE OF THE BOHEMIAN GROVE: THE DRAMATURGY OF POWER

James Vaughn
Michigan Sociological Review
Vol. 20 (Fall 2006), pp. 85-123
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40969163
Page Count: 39
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THE CULTURE OF THE BOHEMIAN GROVE: THE DRAMATURGY OF POWER
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Abstract

This report is constructed upon the premise that the members and guests of the Bohemian Club are elites in society as presented by C.W. Mills (1959) in The Power Elite. I provide the reader with a description of the Grove activities, which illuminates the two-phase emotional experience that makes attending the Bohemian Grove so desirable for the Bohemians. I have focused on the culture of the Grove to discover the processes by which the Bohemians create and maintain social bonds through their formal and informal rituals. The annual Cremation of Care ceremony is the paramount social ritual in the Grove, and is used by the Bohemians for social bonding and group catharsis. Blumer's (1969) research method is utilized for data collection. Analysis is from both a symbolic interactionist perspective, as well as from a dramaturgical perspective. While the Bohemian Club is a private institution, there are implications in the public sector based on the personal associations created and maintained at Club events. When considering the significance of the social status and power of some of the members and guests, the dramaturgical function of the Grove is understood herein as a way for the Bohemians to utilize the backstage region with its props, symbols, and backstage roles to solidify the Bohemian' s social bonds with one another. In the backstage region of the Grove, Bohemians can explore artistic, political, economic, and military ideas beyond public scrutiny. The implications of the personal relationships developed and maintained in the Grove is that they radiate throughout the institutional orders of society where the relationships can be used in the Bohemian's professional roles in society. In some instances, it is asserted herein, the Grove events may be used by powerful individuals to evaluate possible public policies, or for potential candidates for public office to see how their peers receive them.

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