Participant narratives and collective identity in a metaphysical movement

GA Steward
TE Shriver
Amy Chasteen Miller, University of Southern Mississippi

Abstract

In this article we explore social movement solidarity through an examination of narratives offered by participants in a metaphysical movement. Drawing from contemporary social movement theory, we focus on how members develop a carefully built collective identity that perpetuates movement goals and ideology. Data for this project are drawn from in-depth interviews with local psychics, participant observation in various metaphysical fairs, and document analysis. We find that the movement's collective identity is centered around several narratives that help establish boundaries, identify antagonists, and create a collective consciousness. Together these narratives form a web of belief that binds members to the movement. The data we present in this article have implications for understanding other expressive movements, as well as for social movement theory in general.