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1. Fully five pages.2. The main analysis of the article is The Spirits Tell Me That… 3. An overview of the author’s main arguments (Approximately 3 or more pages) What overall argument is the author making? What specific examples does the author focus on in the reading?How is this argument being made? (e.g., What kind of data is being used by the author to support her argument?)How does this argument support or refute arguments made by other authors in the section?4. Your personal critical response to the reading (Approximately 2 pages)What, if anything, do you find convincing about the argument being made?What problems and/or oversights do you see in the reading?What, specifically, do you think this article contributes to broader discussions of the topic?**You should then provide a comparison to another reading(Tall, Dark, and Loath..), and finally provide your critical response. PLEASE read writing guidelines and write the essay following it!!!!!!!!!!!
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Writing Guidelines:
11 or 12 point Times New Roman or Calibri font only
Double-spaced
One-inch margins on all sides
Numbered pages in upper right corner
Proper Citations Required (You may use footnotes, endnotes, and in-text citations)
Your name, course number, and date on a separate cover sheet.
Separate works cited page
(Response papers that do not meet these guidelines will be penalized)
Format:
This paper should not merely be a summary of the reading itself. Rather, the paper
will be graded based on the following inclusions:
1. An overview of the author’s main arguments (Approximately 3 or more
pages)

What overall argument is the author making? What specific examples does the
author focus on in the reading?

How is this argument being made? (e.g., What kind of data is being used by the
author to support her argument?)

How does this argument support or refute arguments made by other authors in the
section?
2. Your personal critical response to the reading (Approximately 2 pages)

What, if anything, do you find convincing about the argument being made?

What problems and/or oversights do you see in the reading?

What, specifically, do you think this article contributes to broader discussions of
the topic?
Your essay should include:
1) an introductory paragraph providing a general overview (preview) of the main
body of your essay and your conclusions
2) main body (summary and critical response)
3) concluding paragraph
Grading Rubric:
Response papers will be graded according to the following criteria:
1. Content and Development (Total points: 80)
1. Paper addresses the main arguments and issue(s) raised: 50 Points
1. Critical response is substantive: 30 Points (Well-formed, thoughtful, and detailed
responses to the reading. Minimum total of 5 double-spaced pages per paper.)
2. Mechanics (Total points: 10)
1. Rules of spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation are followed: 10 Points
3. Readability and Style (Total points: 10)
1. Sentences are complete, clear, and concise, and the tone is appropriate to the
content and assignment: 10 Points
100 points total per paper
” I Ill ~ l’lltll 1′ 1:11 111 : lilA I YOIIItH 1 :1:1INC 111;1.1′ ” I II
6
“THE SPIRITS TELL ME THAT YOU’RE
SEEKING HELP”
Fortune-Telling in Late Capitalism
L. M UZZATTI
EMMA M. SMITH
STEPHEN
n contemporary America people are inundated with mediated images of
dizzying hyperwealth, a proliferation of rags-to-riches narratives, and relentless inducements to gamble on weekly lotteries with prizes in the tens
of millions of dollars. Yet daily we are also confronted with the harsh realities of endless corporate cost cutting, the growing precariousness of work,
an inadequate infrastructure, and a quickly eroding social safety net. Anxieties about employment and financial stability, health and wellness, personal
safety, and international peace and security abound. At the mercy of global
structural forces that few understand and even fewer can control, people desperately strive to bring a sense of order and tranquility to their lives. Thus, a
growing number of people seek allies and answers in the supernatural world
of fortune-telling and spiritual advising. This upsurge is reflected in IBISWorld’s Psychic Services Market Research Report (2016), which outlines a
2.4 percent annual increase in revenue in the fortune-telling industry between 2011 and 2016.
This chapter examines the resurgence and expansion of fortune-telling
as a supernatural industry under the prevailing conditions of late capitalism.
Particular attention is paid to the role of the fortune-teller as a source of
support, guidance, and aid in the context of liquid modernity. This chapter
seeks to neither validate nor debunk the practice of fortune-telling. Rather,
we contextualize fortune-telling, its practitioners, and those who seek their
guidance within the framework of late capitalism in twenty-first-century
America. To accomplish this, we begin with a brief overview of fortune-
I
telling before turning w the MKinunt~·
teller. Particular arremion is paid to the Anglo-American sphere bee W{‘t’ll 1he
mid-late nineteenth and the late twcnrieth centuries. Our focus rhen ~>h if’c ~ lo
the intersecting worlds of work and consumption under Iare capitalism, wic h
due consideration given to the instability and anxiety of liquid modernity and
how this fuels the demand for certainties about the future. This include’ an
exploration of consumer practices as the entry point to a critical evaluac ion
of the positions of the fortune-teller as service provider and the seeker a o1
consumer.
LIQUID DREAMS AND UNCERTAIN FUTURES
Although incarnations of the capitalist economic system have existed for a
few hundred years, the final decades of the twentieth century marked the
true globalization of capitalism and the transformation of social life. This
stage, termed “late capitalism” by Fredric Jameson (1991), saw new forms of
transnational business and the mediatization of culture across the globe. Jt
also brought with it doubt and uncertainty, as instability-economic, political, and social-ironically became one of the few remaining constants in life.
Building on Jameson’s work, with a heavy emphasis on the impact of
these economic and cultural shifts on the everyday worlds of ordinary people,
Zygmunt Bauman (2000) coined the term “liquid modernity” to describe
the unsettled character of life in the new millel).nium. According to Bauman
(2000), modern life shifts so quickly that organization and stability are difficult to achieve and virtually impossible to sustain. This malaise of liquid
modernity is characterized by feelings of uncertainty and insecurity about
our daily interactions and future existence Qock Young 2007). Liquid mo
dernity offers little on which people can moor themselves. Our examination
of the fortune-telling industry is informed by this societal reality, as people
search for assurance and verification on the state of their lives.
Dreams of prosperity are liquefying and becoming less tangible. The
Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that real wages for people near the top of
the income distribution in the United States increased 9.7 percent in 2014,
whereas wages for the lowest earners continued to fall, by 3 percent (DeSilver 2014). In fact, for most workers, real wages have hardly increased for
decades. The decline in living wage jobs, the precariousness of work and
growing economic inequality over the past thirty years have reversed many
of the economic and social gains made by ordinary Americans during the
twentieth century. In many respects, as America charges through the second decade of the twenty-first century, its social, cultural, economic, and
..
~nr-r-r.Tr~
political conditions resemble the dangerous and uncertain landscape of the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Alvaredo et al. 2013). Given
these conditions, it is not surprising that our levels of collective uncertainty
and social angst rival those of that earlier time, which equally saw a rise in
the supernatural industry (Bauman 2007; Jock Young 2007).
THE FORTUNE-TELLER: A GUIDING VOICE
Fortune-telling involves the practices of prediction and counseling in areas of
importance, concern, and uncertainty in a person’s life. Although these services are not officially recognized as accredited mental health or social service
initiatives, they do attempt to appease career, familial, and relationship woes
as well as other fears about general well-being. The fortune-teller functions as
an outlet for people to voice their most significant anxieties in exchange for
immediate comfort. Practitioners and clients often subscribe to supernatural
beliefs about mystic and spiritual powers, including communicating with the
dead and predictive readings (Johnstone 2004). Those who seek the services
of fortune-tellers are not unusual in this regard, as more than six in ten adults
(65 percent) in the United States believe in the supernatural or have had
experiences of engaging with psychic practices (Pew Research Center 2009).
Themes from conventional religious traditions (e.g., Judea-Christian) are
not necessarily incorporated into fortune-telling, as practitioners can conduct
their readings in multiple venues, such as in private residences, at carnivals,
or at public events. The channeling of future projections can be exercised
in forms including astrology, dream analysis, numerology, palmistry, and
phrenology (Johnstone 2004). Depending on the client’s needs, multiple
methods of prediction can be performed during one sitting. Spirit boards,
crystal balls, cups, and tarot cards (see Chapter 7) are traditional tools used
in fortune-telling.
As we soon address more fully, fortune-telling is commonly associated
with the practices of the Roma people and the resurgence of Renaissance
magic. Labeled as a pastime for the lower class, fortune-telling’s many practitioners would adopt occult knowledge as a guiding principle in their daily
lives. Over the centuries, fortune-telling methods have continued to expand
and embrace cultural influences from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. Tasseography (reading the leaves), conducted for thousands of years in China,
and voodoo (a spiritual observance common in West Africa, the Caribbean,
and Louisiana; see Chapter 8) are examples of global predictive and mystical practices that are common among U.S. fortune-tellers (Johnstone 2004).
During their fieldwork, in a large Western city, Danny Jorgensen and Lin
Jorgensen encountered what they termed an “esoteric community” (1982:
0 “11111 1’1111″1 I’ II.I.MI: “I’ II.”i Yllll.lll JJ~INt.JJI ‘ II• ” I
//M
373) of diverse occult seeker~. diems, and praccitioners cncornpassin~ an
array of beliefs and practices. Their study alone identified approxim;lldy”
hundred groups involving as many as fifteen thousand people (Jorgenst•n and
Jorgensen 1982). The intervening decades since Jorgensen and Jorgcm~:n’s
research have seen a significant professionalization of fortune-telling ~ervin·’
and service providers. This professionalization has included formalization
through the creation of professional associations, complete with codes of
ethics, in-service training programs, and pro bono outreach. One exampl~:
of this formalization is the Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers (AIRR). Convened in 2006, the AIRR consists of individuals who
practice African American folk magic (hoodoo, conjure, rootwork, etc.). All
members are required to graduate from a rootwork course and have two
years of experience practicing in the field (AIRR 2017). Like the National
Association of Psychic Practitioners, the American Association of Psychics
and Psychic Mediums, and similar associations, the AIRR (2017) works to
uphold an ethical standard within their profession and spread blessings, healings, and cleansings through different types of readings. Similar to law firms,
the AIRR (2017) has established a Pro Bono Fund that distributes spiritual
supplies (such as natural and handmade herbal teas, sprays, and oils) and
services (free psychic readings) to low-income populations.
FORTUNE-TELLING IN HISTORY
The mysterious but wise fortune-teller, equipped with ancient knowledge,
the gift of foresight, and magical healing powers-complete with a silky
head covering and peculiar foreign accent-is a common trope of popular
culture. Fortune-tellers are regularly caricatured in feature films (e.g., Sherlock Holmes: A Game ofShadows [2013], Drag Me to Hell [2009]), television
programs (e.g., Game ofThrones, Gotham), comics and graphic novels (e.g.,
Madame Xanadu, Starman), and videogames (e.g., Final Fantasy VII [2013]).
Common representations include the old, haggard, ambiguously Eastern European woman; the youthful, exotic beauty with highly problematic allusions
to Gypsies (i.e., the Roma); or conversely, the middle-aged, vaguely racialized
man with clipped-English speech, kind eyes, and other traits liberally borrowed from the plethora of stereotypes about servile colonial subjects from
the Middle East or South Asia (Leland 2007). Irrespective of gender and
ethnicity, seers are almost uniformly presented as marginal, both socially
and economically, precariously earning their living through occult powers
or stagecraft and sometimes both. Distinctly unsavory and borderline disreputable, the fortune-tellers of popular culture are frequently presented as
playing on the fears of those who seek their counsel and providing deliberate
misdirection. ln other, somewhat more benign representations, fortunetellers are portrayed as good-hearted and genuine-but ultimately unreliable-allies whose aid comes in the form of opaque half-truths and barely
decipherable riddles.
While the fortune-teller character occasionally features prominently in
the media’s myriad fictionalized lifeworlds, as seen in Disney’s The Hunchback ofNotre Dame (1996) and The Princess and the Frog (2009), her or his
presence is typically ancillary. In popular culture’s storytelling the soothsayer
is usually little more than a plot device, serving as a foreshadowing source
within a predictive narrative of conflict and resolution. In these representations, seers are conventionally located either in carnivalesque environments or
in eerie, isolated settings requiring the lead character to trespass into surreal
and possibly dangerous territories.
These cartoonish figures are stock characters in popular culture, but their
circumstances and locations bear little resemblance to the diverse realities
of traditional or contemporary fortune-telling practices. Indeed, these representations draw on a long history of popular misconception and distrust
of fortune-tellers that began to emerge in the 1600s. As Jane Duran (1990)
contends, the systematic discrediting of fortune-tellers and other supernatural practitioners by secular and religious authorities in the seventeenth century was integral to the process of rationalizing the newly emerging social
order and its ideological justifications. For example, although the practice of
fortune-telling was broadly linked to the cultural traditions and routines of
the Roma diaspora in Scotland since the fourteenth century, it was not until
the sixteenth century that fortune-telling and other forms of clairvoyance
began to be labeled as the devil’s work by both religious and secular authorities (Cressy 2016).
Christian churches throughout Europe condemned the Roma people
and their spiritual practices. The religious establishment was concerned that
Roma fortune-tellers would lead parishioners astray-ultimately threatening its authority and influence. In Book of Vagabonds, German Protestant
reformer Martin Luther refers to the Roma as “fake friars, wandering Jews
and rogues” (Duna 2014). Swedish archbishop Laurentius Petri decreed that
Roma children were not to be baptized and the Roma dead not buried in
sacred ground (Kenrick and Puxon 1972). French Catholics who had their
palms read faced the threat of excommunication, and the Catholic clergy
in several European countries declared that even people who sheltered or
otherwise aided the Roma were themselves subject to sanction (Kenrick and
Puxon 1972).
As they did in many Continental nations, the Roma resided near the
bottom of England’s social hierarchy and were deemed suspect for a host of
reasons. Although they h;ld lived and traveled throughout what later bctamc
Great Britain for generations, their language and cultural practiccs- panicu
larly their piecemeal laboring and nomadic lifestyle- were markedly different from those of the Britons and violated vagrancy laws dating back to the
fourteenth century (Chambliss 1964). In addition to accusations of kidnap ping and murder, the Roma endured charges of heresy, deception, and theft
for their fortune-telling. Believing that the Roma’s supernatural practices
were filled with deceit and trickery, the British Parliament relentlessly produced legislation that forced punishments of deportation, exile, or death on
these spiritual practitioners (Cressy 2016). Fears of religious belief cessation
and the collapse of social order served as the primary motivation behind the
persecution of the Roma and the forbidding of fortune-telling practices. Indeed, constructing and reifying the distinctions between the natural and the
supernatural was a prerequisite for new ways of knowing (such as rationality
and the physical sciences) to establish themselves as value-free and universal
touchstones of truth (Duran 1990).
The secularization of the European mind, perhaps a victim of its own
success, reached a crisis stage in England during the Victorian era. Although
the place of Christianity in England’s cultural fabric had been less than secure for some time, the approaching millennium exacerbated religious uncertainty and cultural angst (Oppenheim 1988). In an effort to allay their
fears and counter anxiety, people turned to the supernatural. By this time,
magic and superstition were supposed to have been left behind in favor of
empirical evidence and scientific methodology. However, “instead of superstition being expunged from the world, it maintained its hold on human
emotions, where kinds of knowledge other than the theological or scientific
were welcome” (Braudy 2016: 61). Fortune-telling, spiritualism, and psychical research promised answers that conventional science and religion could
not or would not provide. As Janet Oppenheim’s (1988) comprehensive survey of the Victorian and Edwardian periods illustrates, people from all walks
of life turned to the supernatural for evidence of a cosmic balance and purpose in life. Hence, like that of Dennis Waskul and Marc Eaton (see the
Introduction), Oppenheim’s (1988) research challenges the earlier claims by
some psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists that it was marginalized
groups such as women, the poor, and those with low educational attainment
who disproportionately sought out-or provided-fortune-telling and related supernatural services.
Supernatural beliefs and practices were never monopolized by any one
social class or gender. Both men and women, ranging from the landed gentry to lawyers and teachers, to factory workers and miners sought out trance
speakers to communicate with the dead and fortune-tellers to divine the
furure (Oppenheim 1988). In fact, even President Abraham Lincoln sought
advice and guidance from spiritualists after the untimely death of his son,
Willie (Maynard 1891). Rumors have also circulated that even Queen Victoria herself sought to communicate with the spirit of her late husband, Prince
Albert (Oppenheim 1988).
In contrast to the view of fortune-tellers and other supernatural practitioners in early twentieth-century England, their treatment in Australia in
the first decades of the twentieth century reflected deep-seated class tensions,
gender biases, and animosity. Foreshadowing some of what can be observed
in the contemporary American context, fortune-tellers in Australia during
the early 1900s were characterized as, at best, misguided cranks and, at worst,
coldhearted con artists. Typically seen as the purview of lower-class women,
fortune-telling was considered a national blight (Piper 2014). These underprivileged laborers were quickly categorized as sources of entertainment and
amusement for the elite. Popular news publications, such as Western Mail and
Queenslander, also adopted this perspective by publishing jokes and editorial
cartoons that mocked the validity of fortune-telling and ridiculed its adherents and practitioners. Because the women conducting psychic readings were
not upholding traditional gendered duties associated with a proper home life,
they were often exaggeratedly depicted as sideshow performers or sinners.
The mediated portrayals of women fortune-tellers as an evil menace dearly
contributed to the sele …
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