Astrology in action: Culture and *status in unsettled lives

Bridget McKenney Costello, University of Pennsylvania


Why do people practice astrology? Why in particular are women, along with members of other low-status groups such as racial and ethnic minorities and working class individuals, more likely to be associated with astrology? In contrast to existing explanations of astrological belief, which focus on the psychological, educational, or spiritual deficiencies of astrologers, I focus on the uses of astrology as a cultural material from which people construct strategies for navigating everyday life, and which may have particular social relevance for those with less social power. My descriptive account of astrological beliefs and practices is constructed from in-depth qualitative interviews with people who believe in and practice astrology to varying degrees, written first-hand accounts of astrological practice and beliefs, and observation of organized astrological activities. Additionally, I draw upon results from a survey of local astrological beliefs and practices (N=93) as well various sources of nationally representative data to supplement my portrait of astrology's "public." In my analysis of the various dimensions of astrological practice, which advances our understanding of the consumption and mobilization of culture more generally, I find that people use astrology to construct strategies of action (Swidler 2001), strategies of interaction (pertaining to the rehearsal and performance of self), and strategies of emotion (pertaining to emotional self-regulation). As such, astrology serves as a resource for performing the social and emotional labor typically relegated to women in both the family and the labor market. Moreover, although astrology operates as a constraint insofar as astrologers are compelled to manage the stigma attached to their practice, it also provides access to an alternative moral discourse through which individuals may express their deep ambivalence towards hegemonic normative science.

Subject Area

Social research|Womens studies|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Costello, Bridget McKenney, "Astrology in action: Culture and *status in unsettled lives" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3246149.