Since the Cold War, Americans and Russians have together cultivated fascination with the workings and failures of communicative channels. Each accuses the other of media jamming and propaganda, and each proclaims its own communication practices better for expression and creativity. Technologies for Intuition theorizes phaticity—the processes by which people make, check, discern, or describe channels and contacts, judging them weak or strong, blocked or open. This historical ethnography of intuition juxtaposes telepathy experiments and theatrical empathy drills, passing through settings where media and performance professionals encounter neophytes, where locals open channels with foreigners, and where skeptics of contact debate naifs. Tacking across geopolitical borders, the book demonstrates how contact and channel shift in significance over time, through events and political relations, in social conflict, and in conversation. The author suggests that Cold War preoccupations and strategies have marked theoretical models of communication and mediation, even while infusing everyday, practical technologies for intuition.
Alaina Lemon is Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. Her first book, Between Two Fires: Gypsy Performance and Romani Memory from Pushkin to Post-Socialism, received the Wayne S. Vucinich and Heldt book prizes.
"Alaina Lemon dazzlingly spans the far-flung realms of Russian theater, the paranormal, science fiction, and Cold War espionage as she tracks the work of phatic experts who cultivate special abilities to create, sustain, and assess communicative contact. Drawing on cultural insights that range from highbrow literary theory to lowbrow reality television, this learned book provides a rich ethnographic account of connection-in-communication as a central preoccupation in everyday Russian relationships."—Graham M. Jones, author of Magic’s Reason: An Anthropology of Analogy
"This is an important book that shows the power of ethnographic approaches to get at big questions through small things."—Paul Manning, author of Love Stories: Language, Private Love, and Public Romance in Georgia
"Technologies for Intuition puts into a deep perspective the recent American paranoia about Russian meddling with our media and data. Russia turns out to be America’s hardly noticed doppelgänger in the arts of reading cryptic communications. These arts, as Alaina Lemon shows, are not a unique Russian specialty but a general human one cultivated to an acute and pioneering degree in Russia. Her study of such otherwise separate worlds as theater and telepathy shows their common fascination for finding meaning in minutiae—the tilt of a hat on a man, the glance of an eye. Lemon’s interest in communication breakdown is richly mediated by her practice of ethnography, which, in a richly anecdotal way, raises the question of delicate contact at every corner as well. In a moment of severe informational turbulence and crisis of communication, Lemon gives us a banquet of resources for discovering lost affinities and sorting out the obscure facts and distant signals that never seem to leave us alone."—John Durham Peters, María Rosa Menocal Professor of English & Film and Media Studies, Yale University