My initial dissertation research, titled The Everyday and Its Afterlife: Interactions with Spirits in North Indian Hill Stations investigated the social lives of ghosts (bhūt-pret) in the North Indian hill station of Shimla. In contemporary India, engagements with a variety of spiritual beings are both a central part of everyday practices and carry potent social and political weight. Operating on the borderline between idiosyncratic experience and orthodox religiosity, between individuals and communities, these experiences can be contentious and reveal important dimensions of moral experience. However after four months of ethnographic fieldwork supported by a Wenner-Gren and an AIIS Junior Fellowship, my research was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and after much consideration I decided to pause this project as of November 2020 and pivot to a more feasible project in order to cope with the new global limitations.
Drawing on my initial fieldwork experience and foundational interests on the relationship between enchantment and modernity, temporality, uncertainty, and the circulation of ideas around spirituality and the supernatural between India and the West, I formulated a comparative study on the digital practices of tarot readers in two trend-setting global cities: Los Angeles and Mumbai. During a tarot reading, readers help clients negotiate their deepest anxieties, hopes, and sense of agency over their own future through the interaction. I have found that readings can reveal different cultural orientations towards the future as well as the specific moral investments of practitioners and their social contexts.
Fields of Study:
- South Asia and the US
- enchantment and modernity
- history, memory, and haunting
- divination and futurity
- digital ethnography