Janaki Phillips

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9923

Approve Date

October 24, 2019

Project Title

Phillips, Janaki (Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of) "Divining Uncertain Futures: A Comparative Study of Contemporary Tarot Practice," supervised by Dr. Matthew Hull

JANAKI PHILLIPS, then a graduate student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, was awarded funding in October 2019 to aid research on ‘Divining Uncertain Futures: A Comparative Study of Contemporary Tarot Practice,’ supervised by Dr. Matthew Hull. The grantee was four months into this original research project on the everyday interactions with ghosts and spirits in Shimla, a North Indian hill station, when lockdown began. After five months of lockdown in India, the grantee was able to return to the US and began redesigning the study. Drawing on 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, a comparative study was formulated 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. Research found that readings can reveal the specific moral investments of practitioners and their social contexts. One of the predominant differences observed between LA’s ‘post-New-Age’ milieu and Mumbai’s array of traditional diviners was that tarot has largely become a tool of individual psychological and spiritual development in the US, whereas in India it is largely used as a predictive tool alongside astrology and other techniques.