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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Magick - some academic sources

Looking through the bibliography of Dave Evans : The History of British Magick After Crowley: Hidden Publishing : 2007 to see if Dave mentions Tambiah's "Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality" but he doesn't. Which is a shame. It is a very useful text. And has led me to Taussig, Michael T. The Magic of the State. New York: Routledge, 1997 - or will have done once I have got it...

There is a chunk of his writing here http://www.hungryghost.net/magpolitics/TheHorror.htm
- on a 'Heart of Darkness' theme.

Or this - from an interview:

If you assume, as I do, that reality is really made up, then you are automatically launched into this wild project conflating fiction and non-fiction. The only choice you’ve got is whether to acknowledge this or not, whether you will exploit the joints and seams, or not, and whether you will allow the sheer act of writing itself to seem a self-conscious activity, drawing attention to the continuous work of make-believe in art no less than in politics and everyday life. Because they expand the notion of theater in these ways, and because they animate the magic of the state, Brecht and Kafka make congenial company for anyone working with the mix.


There is a reading list at the end of this short piece from an online dictionary of science.


A central concern in the intellectual history of magic and religion is modernity. This requires an understanding of how Western scholarship has created grand narratives that present Western societies and their political projects, notably colonialism, in a favorable light. It is clear that one of the most distinctive elements of Europe's construction or imagination of itself has been its self-designation as civilized and progressive. The simultaneous construction of other groups of people as the opposite—backward, primitive, and undeveloped—was assisted by discourses in the social sciences, philosophy, and religious studies.

The theories and assumptions about magic that scholars have used, particularly in writings prior to the work of Lévi-Strauss, demonstrate particular patterns. The ways that they chose to contrast and compare material from different cultures and societies often created an opposition between Western and non-Western, advanced and backward, and civilized and primitive cultures. When magic was contrasted with religion, it was viewed to be less comprehensive and focused on practical ends, rather than ontological or existential ones. When placed in contrast to science it was seen to be either limited or incorrect, since it did not contain a logic that could test its propositions nor question its own premises. In early-twenty-first-century analyses, magic has been compared favorably to science, and there is a general assumption that it works toward an understanding of the natural world and relies on analogical reasoning. Most scholars view magic as an aspect of religion that exists in all societies. It can be viewed as part of everyday life, guiding thought and action.

People in societies across the globe have been influenced by Western thought on magic, with its attending characterizations of culture. Magic has been present in the discourses of colonial rule, Christian conversion, educational institutions, state administrative organizations, and development policies. Whether the thought comes from popular culture or scholarly investigations, the production and reproduction of dichotomies, that according to Levi-Strauss present what is "outside" as inferior, continue to present problems for scholarship. Despite the relative lack of theoretical reflections and ethnographic works on magic prior, early-twenty-first-century scholarship is poised to extend the terrain of what can be considered to be magical and to conceptualize the new forms that magic takes in modernity.


Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1950.

Durkheim, Émile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Edited and translated by Karen Fields. New York: Free Press, 1995.

Frazer, James. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Abr. and rev. ed. Old Tappan, N.J.: Macmillan, 1985.

Levi-Bruhl, Lucien. Primitive Mentality. Translated by Lilian Clare. London: Macmillan, 1923.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. The Savage Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966.

Malinowski, Bronislaw. Magic, Science and Religion and Other Essays. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1954.

Mauss, Marcel. A General Theory of Magic. Translated by Robert Brain. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1972.

Radcliffe-Brown, Alfred Reginald. The Andaman Islanders: A Study in Social Anthropology. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1922.

Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Taussig, Michael T. The Magic of the State. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. New York: Scribners, 1971.

Tylor, Edward Burnett. Religion in Primitive Culture. Vol. 2. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1970.

Bowie, Fiona. The Anthropology of Religion: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.

Lehmann, Arthur C., and James E. Myers, eds. Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion: An Anthropological Study of the Supernatural. 4th ed. Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield, 1997.

Morris, Brian. Anthropological Studies of Religion: An Introductory Text. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Pels, Peter. "Introduction: Magic and Modernity." In Magic and Modernity: Interfaces of Revelation and Concealment, edited by Birgit Meyer and Peter Pels. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2003.


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