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Conjuring Hope

Conjuring Hope: Healing and Magic in Contemporary Russia

Galina Lindquist
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Conjuring Hope
    Book Description:

    Notions of magic and healing have been changing over past years and are now understood as reflecting local ideas of power and agency, as well as structures of self, subjectivity and affect. This study focuses on contemporary urban Russia and, through exploring social conditions, conveys the experience of living that makes magic logical. By following people's own interpretations of the work of magic, the author succeeds in unraveling the logic of local practice and local understanding of affliction, commonly used to diagnose the experiences of illness and misfortune.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-471-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface An Encounter with ‘Power’
    (pp. ix-xx)
  5. Introduction Post-communism and Magic in Anthropology
    (pp. 1-22)

    The 1990s have been marked by a spate of works on post-socialist countries. After the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, many Western anthropologists took the opportunity to do fieldwork in this vast and interesting, but previously closed territory. Most of them opted for remote corners of the former empire. These included Siberia and Central Asia, rural areas that had previously been out of reach (e.g. Grant 1995; Kandiyoti and Mandel 1998; Anderson 2000). Anthropologists working in urban contexts, including capital cities, have been in the minority. In their choice of subjects they concentrated on the emerging diversity of lifestyles,...

  6. Chapter 1 Marketing Magic
    (pp. 23-52)

    While the occult, by definition, is a hidden knowledge, urban magic in big cities is a conspicuously public phenomenon. As such, it is created by the media and upheld by the market as a thriving field of service and commodity exchange. The upsurge of paranormal performances and services in Russia in the late 1990s subsided somewhat by the beginning of the 2000s. By then, magic and healing came to occupy a more stable place on the market of services, at times converging with more conventional kinds of interpersonal help, such as business consulting, psychotherapy, and various types of health care....

  7. Chapter 2 Magic as Semiotic Changes: Ontologies, Rituals and Terms of Affliction
    (pp. 53-80)

    So far, I have set the stage for magic as a profession, and as a service on the market. In this chapter, I shall consider interaction between the magus and the client as semiosis, manipulated by the magus in order to change the client’s orientational dynamics – to alter the client’s self. This process may start even before treatment proper is initiated, on the occasion of the first conversation between the magus and the client, when the diagnosis is made. I shall suggest that the terms of affliction, used to name the patient’s problems, may have a potential to trigger...

  8. Chapter 3 Magic as Management of Emotions
    (pp. 81-112)

    Let us return to Centaur and to Tatiana’s consulting room, and take a closer look at the initial verbal exchange that starts the therapeutic process. Her clients in the instance I describe are a middle-class, rather wealthy-looking woman in her late forties and her son, in his late teens, handsome, well-groomed, well-dressed, and well-demeanoured. During the session he is mostly silent, smiling wearily and nodding slightly, to confirm what his mother is saying. According to his mother, everything, until just recently, has seemed to turn out very well for him. He had been admitted into a prestigious college, where he...

  9. Chapter 4 The Icons of Power: Constructing Charisma from the Means at Hand
    (pp. 113-136)

    For Liuba, whose story is presented in the previous chapter, it took some time to find a person whom she recognised as her personal redeemer. True, she did not give to those she met before Katerina a chance even to try to exert their power over her life; Katerina was the first magus she decided to go for, and she accepted her from the start. In other cases, people do try several magi, part with a lot of money, and experience a number of disappointments before (and if at all) they find the one they think works for them.


  10. Chapter 5 Charisma of the Office: Healing Power and Biomedical Legitimacy
    (pp. 137-169)

    In the previous chapter I described a lone magus, a nun in a monastery of her own making. In Weberian terms, hers is ‘charismatic legitimacy’, constructed without reference to anything outside her own self. Katerina has shunned institutional settings as frameworks for meaning or as sources of legitimacy; she has placed herself above and beyond any of them, be it Church, science, bureaucratic structures dispensing conventional biomedicine, or the new structures of business like the Centaur centre. The price she pays is exceptional loneliness and exposure to the manifold dangers of Russian life.

    Other healers choose different ways. In the...

  11. Chapter 6 The Unspeakable Emotions: Spells and Their Use in Working Life
    (pp. 170-198)

    There is a long tradition of studying magical language in anthropology, starting from Malinowski (1922, 1965) and continuing through Lévi-Strauss (1963) and Stanley Tambiah (1968, 1990) to Thomas Csordas (1997a) (to name but a few). There are two main ideas that have transpired in this scholarship that are relevant to my argument below. One is that all rhetoric and ritual language, spells included, is more instrumental than expressive, or, more precisely, that in this kind of language these two aspects are indistinguishable. In the Peircian terms adopted in this book, ritual speech is more pragmatic than descriptive or referential, and,...

  12. Chapter 7 The Magic of Business and the Fostering of Hope
    (pp. 199-227)

    The central theme of this book has been to show how magical practices can work to augment individual human agency in a society where the formal channels of agency are limited, and to change subjectivity, for example, by attenuating and modifying psychologically destructive and socially disruptive emotions. In this chapter, I shall develop further the view of magic as an aspect of the existential safety net operating in conditions of ‘precarious presence’ (see Rodriguez Larreta 2002). In the ‘jungle’ of the brave new Russia, magic can be seen as a way of lendingillusioto those playing tough social games...

  13. Epilogue Social Fields, Fields of the Game, Minefields: Hazards of Interpretation
    (pp. 228-236)

    I embarked on this work with a vague sense of dissatisfaction with the epistemological strategy of cultural interpretation which is basic to much anthropological writing. The guiding trope of enquiry was, for me, not the Geertzian project of ‘interpretation of cultures’ but, rather, Bourdieu’s notion of the ‘logic of practice’. In order to discern this logic, I attempted to account for ‘meeting face-to-face’ with the Other, not translating the Other in the terms of the self, but showing why some ways of thinking and being were logical within the frames of certain practices, social contexts, or ‘fields of the game’....

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-244)
  15. Index
    (pp. 245-251)