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Ripples of the Universe

Spirituality in Sedona, Arizona

Ask a random American what springs to mind about Sedona, Arizona, and they will almost certainly mention New Age spirituality. Nestled among stunning sandstone formations, Sedona has built an identity completely intertwined with that of the permanent residents and throngs of visitors who insist it is home to powerful vortexes—sites of spiraling energy where meditation, clairvoyance, and channeling are enhanced. It is in this uniquely American town that Susannah Crockford took up residence for two years to make sense of spirituality, religion, race, and class.

Many people move to Sedona because, they claim, they are called there by its special energy. But they are also often escaping job loss, family breakdown, or foreclosure. Spirituality, Crockford shows, offers a way for people to distance themselves from and critique current political and economic norms in America. Yet they still find themselves monetizing their spiritual practice as a way to both “raise their vibration” and meet their basic needs. Through an analysis of spirituality in Sedona, Crockford gives shape to the failures and frustrations of middle- and working-class people living in contemporary America, describing how spirituality infuses their everyday lives. Exploring millenarianism, conversion, nature, food, and conspiracy theories, Ripples of the Universe combines captivating vignettes with astute analysis to produce a unique take on the myriad ways class and spirituality are linked in contemporary America.
 

248 pages | 21 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2021

Class 200: New Studies in Religion

Culture Studies

Religion: American Religions, Religion and Society

Reviews

"This elegantly written report from an ethnographic field study is a rich witness to a US landscape and the spiritual seekers who developed a visceral connection to the region’s 'energies'. . . . At once strikingly empathic and analytic, Crockford employs theories from religious studies, critical theory, and political science to explain behaviors of those who have little control over corporate or governmental policies that determine their existence."

Choice

"Ripples of the Universe makes a solid contribution to the study of contemporary spiritualities and is highly recommended for scholars of religion, sociology, anthropology and American culture."

Journal for the Academic Study of Religion

"Crockford’s Ripples of the Universe is an excellent introduction to New Age ‘spirituality’ as it is practiced ‘on the ground’ in 21st-century America. I predict the book will be widely read, especially by students of new religious movements, sociology of religion in the United States, and critical cultural studies. Engagingly written, methodologically clear, and well-illustrated, Ripples of the Universe will also be an ideal text for graduate seminars on these topics."

Religion

“This emotionally sensitive, beautifully written book shows how ethnography can reshape our understanding of ourselves. Crockford describes how spirituality offers hope of new resources and a new way of life in the context of contemporary economic arrangements, and how precarious such hopes can be. She casts an original, clear light on the everyday experience of a remarkable cast of people, displaying both compassion and objectivity; this is a small masterpiece.”

Timothy Jenkins, University of Cambridge

“In this lucid, engaging, and comprehensive analysis of Sedona’s metaphysical spiritualists, Crockford thoroughly unpacks the cosmology, millenarian beliefs, and cultural resonances of this key center of what used to be called ‘New Age spirituality.’ Crockford shows how Sedona’s metaphysicians rework race, class, kinship, health, neoliberal economics, and notions of purity, indigeneity, government corruption, and utopian aspiration in their efforts to create a value-driven spirituality that is as individual as it is emblematic of the ‘postsecular’ condition. A wonderful book!”

Adrian J. Ivakhiv, University of Vermont

“Not only is this book a deep ethnographic dive into the metaphysical/theosophical/new thought/new age/extraterrestrial spirituality and conspiracy theory milieu of Sedona, it is also an astute critical description of major thought currents in America today and their histories. This book will be of interest to anyone seeking to learn more about American culture, spirituality, and even politics.”

Catherine Wessinger, Loyola University New Orleans

"This is a fascinating interpretation of seekers and seekership at an iconic American site for post-New Age spirituality, focusing on key themes of nature, diet, identity, conspiracy and revelation. The author combines empathetic ethnography with shrewd analysis of the erosion of the middle ground between the local and the cosmic - society, in other words - that's inadvertently fostered in pursuit of the 'spiritual path'. This is an innovative and timely study which raises resonant questions about the impact of a hitherto minority worldview on mainstream American culture - and beyond."

Steven J. Sutcliffe, University of Edinburgh

Table of Contents

Introduction: Everything Is Energy
1 The Rocks Were Screaming at Me: Agency, Nature, and Space
2 21st December 2012: “This Is My Story, Not Yours”
3 Awakened Aliens: Crafting the Self on the Spiritual Path
4 To Your Highest Vibration: Hierarchies of Food, Boundaries of the Self
5 What Is Wrong with America? Conspiracy Theories as Counter-Narrative
Conclusion: All Energy Vibrates at a Certain Frequency
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index
 

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