Electronic Rituals, Oracles

Allison Parrish


According to anthropologists Filip de Boeck and René Devisch, divination “constitutes a space in which cognitive structures are transformed and new relations are generated in and between the human body, the social body and the cosmos.” In this class, students will learn the history of divination, engage in the practice of divination, and speculate on what forms divination might take in a world where the human body, the social body, and even the cosmos(!) are digitally mediated. Starting with an understanding of ritual and folk culture, we will track the history of fortune-telling from the casting of lots to computer-generated randomness to the contemporary revival of Tarot; from reading entrails to astrology to data science; from glossolalia to surrealist writing practices to the “ghost in the machine” of artificial intelligence.