Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationNew York, Queens College, City U. of
Grant numberGr. 9970
Approve DateAugust 26, 2020
Project TitleElisha, Omri (New York, Queens College, City U. of) "Enchanting Expertise: Knowledge, New Media, and Professionalism in Western Astrology"
This project examines the role of professionalism and new media strategies in the efforts of working astrologers in the US to promote the reimagining of astrological knowledge and techniques as sources of cultural capital. I probe beyond the platitudes of tabloid horoscopes to analyze how professional astrologers, including consultants, licensed therapists, authors, teachers, and media figures, define and enact expertise within and beyond their communities of practice. Instead of testing the validity of astrologers’ metaphysical truth-claims, I approach Western astrology as an “epistemic culture” composed of diverse and increasingly codified knowledge practices, including but not limited to oracular divination, in which astrologers perform a delicate balance between emulating and differentiating themselves from established fields in the domains of science, religion, and academia, among others. In light of such dynamics, and using ethnographic methods, my research asks: How do modern astrologers project authority and cultivate public trust? What are the procedures for authenticating expertise when it comes to astrological skills and principles, and how are they differentiated from more traditionally recognized areas of expertise? And given their current prominence, what forms of ethical and historical consciousness are afforded, or precluded, by the “enchanted materialism” of astrological concepts and forecasts?