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Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy
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Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  451 ratings  ·  98 reviews
"Fascinating . . . An admirably lucid, level-headed history of outbreaks of joy from Dionysus to the Grateful Dead."--Terry Eagleton, The Nation

Widely praised as "impressive" (The Washington Post Book World), "ambitious" (The Wall Street Journal), and "alluring" (The Los Angeles Times), Dancing in the Streets explores a human impulse that has been so effectively suppressed...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 26th 2007 by Holt Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,593)
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Larry Bassett
Barbara Ehrenreich is one of my hero authors because of her books Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. She has written a number of other books but these two address social issues that I find particularly compelling. They are also books where her writing is quite personal and succinct. On the other hand Dancing in the Streets hammers home its points by excessive repetition. For example, in the Introduction Ehrenreich writes a twenty page thesis on ceremonies that she considers celebratory in som...more
Clara Stefanov-wagner
I was disappointed to find that "collective joy" was narrowly defined in a very specific sense of trancelike, community-wide ritual associated with religious festivities. This is further defined (or at least described) as being characterized by a loss of individual consciousness and orientation on a level that would be considered pathological in other contexts. Working from this restrictive definition, the author takes the view that such occasions have vanished, and that we have lost an essentia...more
Four out of five stars for the idea, two out of five stars for execution. Ehrenreich's introduction to Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy points out a quizzical disconnect in modern Western culture. We put an awful lot of time and effort into studying depression, malaise, the things that make us happy and the things that isolate us, but very little effort into studying the things that make us happy or which bring us together. Ehrenreich traces the history of expressions of commu...more
Jeremy Preacher
I liked this and found it an interesting read. Ehrenreich presented some historical events in an unusual light - the rise of Protestantism as a reaction against the increasing disapproval by the Catholic Church of public celebration being the main example. I was also fascinated by the idea, provocative although not well-supported, that the early Christians were shaped by Dionysian cults, because the Roman Jews were also followers of Dionysus. I'd love to see some more evidence along those lines...more
Jul 16, 2008 Jessi rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are too cool to dance
i liked the concept, i agreed with many of her argumentsbut could not deal with it's half-assed research and academic posturing. there were all kinds of research problems, logical fallacies, and an almost gratuitous use of the word "masking", but my one major bugaboo, which completely drove me up a wall through the entire book was her frequently bashing of anthropologists for using words she felt were derogatory, without actually bothering to *understand the definitions of the words*.

Cynthia Haggard
Barbara Ehrenreich’s DANCING IN THE STREETS is both a celebration of dancing and a condemnation of the authorities who are trying to prevent large groups of people from running amok in the interests of law and order.

This wonderful book is a potted history of dance, from its roots back in the misty past, through various ancient civilizations and up through the present day. Ms. Ehrenreich conveys how natural it was to dance and how this is a knack that many of us have lost today. People who either...more
This was more of a history of the *suppression* of collective joy rather than the rituals of joy themselves. None the less, full of fascinating information, including the fact that before Yahweh became the one god of the Jews, they worshiped the middle eastern version of Dionysus. The author also comes to some interesting conclusions about how our culture went from first hand experience of divinity through ecstatic ritual, to "faith", which, if you look at it honestly is an act of the imaginatio...more
Ever since I read that the massacre at Wounded Knee was instigated by soldiers thrown into a panic over native Americans who were dancing in ecstatic prayer (imagine that, murdering men, women and children because they were dancing)I've known that the western world has a strained relationship with ecstatic behavior. I am delighted to have stumbled on Ehrenreich's book that explores this phenomenon.

The way I came across this book was by reading Ehrenreich's memoir Living with a Wild God, a book...more
I chose not to finish this book; being a fan of both joy and dance, this made me sad. As an investigative reporter, Ehrenreich might be quite skilled. But I am not impressed with her grasp of religious history nor her style of psychological conjecture to support her points. There are better sources than this book for cultural theories. If I'm going to spend time on the history of an event, I want more hard facts.
I loved the discussion of the physical component of Spiritual expression. I have personally struggled to find opportunities to share this "collective effervescence" that are not frustrated by weird dogma. Maybe that is why I have found so much satisfaction in singing in a choir and in practicing yoga. They are both physical/spiritual expressions w/o unnecessary conflicts of dogma.
Collective Joy! Lets get there, but not in a scary LSD way. Just go dance about with your neighbors.

I wish the author focused more on the history of this in other areas of the world than northern europe.

It is amazing, and a bit frightening to think about the boundaries...where does collective joy become a riot? Interesting book
This is not Barbara Ehrenreich's best writing - it lacks the elan of her first-person narrative style - but she really impressed me with her argument that humans need festival. It turns out my interests in dancing and community are closely related, which finally makes sense to me. Bottom line: more dance parties. Can't argue with that.
This was less about collective joy than the repression of collective joy, and heavily focused on the Christian tradition, although not exclusively so. An interesting book, and a good resource for a writing wanting to get ideas for a repressive government.
I'm delighted to finally read a book that describes dancing and social exuberance in a positive light! While this book is not perfect (in its research, in its coverage and perception of non-western dance forms), it's the first and only of its kind.
Lauren Sheil
I don’t dance.

It just feels strange to get up and let my body move with music. When I really stop and listen to the music I’m dancing too it feels even stranger. Most popular music is narcissistic at best, much of it bordering on downright violence, cruelty and misogyny, why would anyone want to dance to that? This might sound odd coming from a guy who spent nineteen years in the music business but I really don’t like popular music, never have. So I very rarely dance.

I do like philosophy though...more
Barbara Ehrenreich's Dancing in the Streets is less a history of collective joy, as the subtitle states, than it is a history of the restriction, suppression and de-legitimization of collective joy. It speaks to the increasing isolation many people across the globe, and particularly in the first world, experience.

Collective joy is a term, and an experience, that is fairly foreign to most of us today. Dr. Ehrenreich describes ecstatic rituals, bacchanalias, festivities, and group dancing from cul...more
Jean Perry
i loved this book. However, if you are not a devotee of historical tidbits or esoteric historical trivia, it may not be your cup of tea. Barbara Ehrenrich gives us a quick summary (just 260 pages) of public festivals throughout history. For me, a history teacher, it was a little slow in the beginning because the info was not new, but it got more interesting as she got to the Reformation and the French Revolution and fascism. Ehrenrich combines real historical knowledge and quotes with humor and...more

A lament for the disappearance of communal celebrations, this work is an analysis of the role that 'festivals' have played in uniting people, in creating community. The author believes it has been significant - indeed, believes it is one of the major reasons for human success. Believes that the ability to form groups larger than a nuclear family was essential for human survival - essential for gathering food, hunting, fending off predators. And believes that the means of binding together people,...more
Barbara Ehrenreich is an engaging, enlightened and incisive critic of western culture, particularly in the company of writers on the New York Times Best Sellers List. Her best known book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America provided a significant swath of middle-class Americans with a personally experienced account of just how hard it is to get by on a variety of minimum wage jobs in this country, for example. When I read about Barbara's most recent book, "Dancing in the Streets," s...more
Simon Wood

Starting back at the dawn of time and bringing the reader up to the present, Barbara Ehrenreich charts the history of collective joy in her recently published book "Dancing in the Streets". The book itself isn't one that's easy to pigeon-hole, in part a work of synthesis, it brings into close focus those fragments of information we have from the past that relate to her subject matter. It also reflects, and speculates on, the expressions of collective joy and ecstatic ritual...more
I liked the idea of following a single activity - carnival - throughout history. Puts a different gloss on some well worn facts. I did feel that she was stretching some chapters pretty thin; and some of the assumptions or leaps in logic felt pretty forced -- but overall, I enjoyed this look at the changes in our human culture. I agree with her central premise that our society has lost something special when festivals and dance for pure fun were traded for our industrial high tech lives.
Feb 03, 2008 Anie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes to really live.
I have a deep, deep appreciation for the combination of music and dance - it's led me to impromptu dance parties, raves, drum circles, and hippie music festivals among other events. There's nothing like a beat to make you move, and nothing like losing yourself in a large group to make you feel totally and truly human. This book is about that: large-scale celebrations of music, dance, and general carnival. The author has some really interesting ideas - from the idea of collective joy as an adapta...more
Jimmy Pryor
This was an interesting book, but a rather light, journalistic one. I was disappointed numerous times when looking up a footnote to find that she was quoting a secondary resource. Very oriented to the European perspective. I read about 2/3 of it and listened to about 1/3 audiobook. I found the reader of the audiobook to have an irritating style.
lovely lively book. Very nice social cultural history.

if you like Carnivale or New Orleans' then you'll love how she talks about collective ecstasy is much more threatening to rationalized social orders than any amount of indivual wild and untrammeled sex.

links of collective ecstasy to "lower civilizations", etc.

love Barbara's work!

Elliot Sneider
I heard Bill Moyers talking with Barbara Ehrenreich on his weekly podcast. She is a journalist who writes in a conversational style and never pretends to be an ultra-expert. In this book she discusses collective joy - using words like ecstasy and carnival throughout history. Uses it to get into really interesting discussion about European imperialism and its interpretation of "primitive" celebrations, class issues with collective celebration, the difference between the ecstacy of Nazi propaganda...more
This was an awesome book I listened to on CD. I would like to read it in print so I can catch the details. Basically, the joy of ecstatic dancing has been squashed by hierarchy/government/religion/"progress" and we need to bring it back! The fact that my niece attends raves doesn't concern me as much as it did before I listened to this book.
morning Os
3.5 stars. As the author admits, this is a "European" history of collective joy, which I think she should clarify in the title since it gives an impression that any 'history' should automatically mean European experiences.

I enjoyed the long-duree scope of her history, and learned new things about European religions and revolution. I was interested in her chapter on Fascism but it wasn't very informative. Since my knowledge on Europe is limited, I cannot tell if her analysis of the Romans and Chr...more
Its been a few weeks since I actually finished this book, and I am still telling people about it. Ehrenreich takes social theories that I've read about over the years, the works of Weber, Durkheim, Foucault, and ties them all together to examine the history of collective dance and ectasy. This latter term she defines using the word's root meaning--to be filled with a spirit or divine presence. Over time, this root of ectasy, planted in religion and spirituality, has been cleaved from the divine....more
Mar 13, 2008 Josh rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like to dance, are bummed-out, or like to party
Recommended to Josh by: Theresa
In one of the most unique books I've read in a long time, Ehrenreich departs from her usually focused gender-analysis to engage in a study of collective joy throughout human history. Clearly, today's society offers few opportunities akin to the participatory festivals of the pre-modern world and non-industrial societies, and how this happened is carefully traced by Ehrenreich.

This book is both enlivening, because of the ebullient topic and events described, but equally depressing, because it is...more
I don't know that I could actually read this book, I cheated and listened to it. I thought it was interesting and I learned quiet a bit about history. You should know the author is decidedly against Christianity and so speaks about it as you would speak about Greek Mythology. It was easy for me to look past that but would frustrate some, as she take her thoughts and feelings and gives them as facts. I thought it would be a little more about dance and the cultures they come from, it was about "sa...more
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Barbara Ehrenreich is the bestselling author of sixteen previous books, including the bestsellers Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. A frequent contributor to Harpers and The Nation, she has also been a columnist at The New York Times and Time Magazine.

More about Barbara Ehrenreich...
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts' Advice to Women

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