Making magic ↖ consumption: A study of white-water river rafting

Eric J. Arnould, Linda L. Price, Cele Otnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recourse to magic is a universal strategy for trying to resolve intractable social problems. Within the context of white-water river rafting, the authors illustrate the conjunction of elements (condition of the performer, rite, and formula) that make magical experience possible in a constructed consumption setting. They show how "river magic," like all magic, concerns itself with the relationship between humans and the world, how it activates certain "latent virtues," and how it consists of ritualized acts directed toward concrete ends. River magic is practical but also performative and rhetorical. It serves to restructure and integrate the minds and emotions of the actors. The authors emphasize the spontaneous evocations of hope, optimism, and confidence common both to traditional magical systems and to river magic. In postmodernity, magic may reemerge from the margins of modern thought to ritualize hope and optimism and to reinscribe us in a meaningful cultural milieu.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-68
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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