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Magic in the Russian Marketplace: Creating Trust

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image of Russian History

Focussing on a commercial magic specialist (mag) well-known in Petersburg today, the article examines the strategies adopted by her and others to gain the confidence of their clientele. It opens by examining the levels of social trust in Russia, arguing that distrust and feelings of defenselessness encourage a sizeable proportion of Russians with the traditional view that problems are externally generated, to think of turning for help to magic practitioners. With magic services derided in the media and condemned by the Church, the magic specialist NPP must counter this negative image as well as promote her services above those of her competitors. Whereas in 2006 she relied on press advertising and recommendation by satisfied customers, in 2012 her main promotional tool is her website. The article examines the specific ways in which she tackles the creation of a trustworthy image. Since magic services offer a kind of therapy, another aspect examined in detail is the relationship with psychology and psychotherapy. It is suggested that from the early 1990s to around 2005 magic specialists sought to hijack psychotherapy, but that more recently links have been played down as magic practitioners define their potential clientele more clearly. The article offers reasons for this, and speculates on future developments.

Affiliations: 1: University College London-SSEES,


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