This is a book about imaginary social relationships. It deals with American dreams, fantasies, anticipations, media involvements, and hallucinations, and especially with the social interactions that pervade these imaginary worlds. My interest in the subject began with fictional literature. However, the orientation of this study reflects the work I have carried out over the last fifteen years in anthropology and American Studies. I have drawn on the diverse social science literature on imaginary processes, but much of the material presented here is based on my own research.
For comparative perspectives, I have relied heavily on my own fieldwork in two non-Western societies. In 1968 I carried out field research on the social organization of Fáánakkar, a Pacific island in the Truk group of the Caroline Islands in Micronesia. In 1976-77 I did a similar study with a band of Sufi fakirs in the Margalla Hills of Pakistan. During that year I also interviewed urban intellectuals, many of whom were associated with a northern Pakistani university where I was teaching. My American material includes data on schizophrenic imaginary systems obtained during a field study of an urban psychiatric ward from 1972 to 1975. But the bulk of my information about American imaginary relationships is drawn from some 500 persons within my own social circles, that is, from personal acquaintances and also from interviews and survey work with faculty, staff, and students at the two eastern universities where I have taught. While published sources suggest that the patterns I have explored here are widespread, they probably vary