The original name was changed due to “implicit biases” and “default perspectives” connected to colonial history.
The organizers of Burning Man have remained hopeful of their ability to provide a 2021 event, announcing a theme earlier this month and issuing a “gentle nudge” to campsite organizers to start planning just last week.
A post appeared in the Burning Man Project‘s blog on March 9th, revealing the theme as well as the meaning behind it. Originally titled “Terra Incognita,” a Latin phrase which translates to “unknown land,” the theme was intended to spark curiosity. Unfortunately, it was later realized that the name had negative connotations that poorly reference the country’s colonial history, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
According to the post’s author, director of the Philosophical Center of Burning Man Project Stuart Mangrum, the theme’s original name was retitled when the team behind the event “learned that the phrase (Terra Incognita) has a colonial history, and it reflected back some of [their] own implicit biases and default perspectives.”
While the underlying concepts behind the theme remain the same, the original name has since been retitled to “The Great Unknown.” The blog post has been updated to reflect these changes, removing any mention of the previous name.
“This year’s Burning Man theme is an invitation to emerge from our collective isolation, to explore the unfamiliar contours of a changed world, and to reimagine ourselves, our community, and our culture in ways that might not have been possible before this period of plague and pause,” the post reaffirms.
You can read Mangrum’s updated post in full here.