Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Sociology (MA)

Degree Level



Sociology and Criminal Justice


Lori Holyfield

Committee Member

Anna Zajicek

Second Committee Member

Steven K. Worden


Cultural performance, Festivals, Group emotion, Idioculture, Intentional communities, Nostalgia


Through two years of ethnographic fieldwork and 19 interviews, I synthesize symbolic interaction and a sociological framework of culture to examine the ways in which the Walnut Valley Festival is created and experienced as a unique form of cultural performance, one that is always shifting in response to the emergent cultural creation and reception of attendees. No work to date combines the dimensions of both production and reception of music festivals as a unique form of cultural performance. In bringing back the oftentimes ignored affective dimension in cultural studies, I use Griswold's (2004) metaphor of a cultural diamond, examining the definition of the situation and the creation and reception of the Walnut Valley Festival as an always evolving cultural object. In this case, the cultural object of importance is the festival as an emotional cultural performance. With little exception, most cultural studies focus upon the cognitive aspects of festival that render it meaningful. This work reveals how, through the emotionality of music and narratives, strong feelings of affective nostalgia are produced which render the festival deeply meaningful to participants. Intense feelings are produced during performances that involve the ritualized playing of music where attendees experience heightened emotionality, oftentimes difficult to articulate. Through the ritualized performance of music (arguably the most important aspect of the festival to many attendees) and the resultant feelings of affective nostalgia, individuals evoke the past, reflect on the present, create and receive "idioculture," and increase the cultural efficacy of the festival as a meaningful, emotional, and "remembered" event that is continuously created and recreated throughout the years.