Highly recommended: Theatrical magic and the agenda to enchant the world

Some great articles in the ‘Online Early’ section of Social & Cultural Geography (as Mary Gilmartin tweeted today) and one jewel amongst them is a great new paper from Charlie Rolfe on theatrical magic, ‘unreal experiments’ and the agenda to enchant the world.

Charlie gave an early version of this in what was a tour de force seminar at Exeter Geography and I highly recommend reading the article!

Here’s the abstract:

This paper addresses the agenda of enchantment as it relates to contemporary theatrical magic (those deliberately enigmatic activities that are performed, experienced and commercialized as a form of entertainment). Magic practice is regularly constructed along a particular teleology: ‘action → effect of impossibility → affect of astonishment’. The paper supplements this teleology in four sections. First, a discussion of magicians’ knowledge and the ignorance required for participant-spectators to apprehend effects of impossibility and become astonished. Second, an examination of two forms of reason: one, an investigation into hidden ‘secrets’; the other, a perception of superficial ‘effects’. Third, a critique of the figure of the magician and its disputed role within magic practice. Fourth, a presentation and discussion of three empirical vignettes – professional magician Jay Sankey’s ‘Unreal Experiments’ – which advocate an evental logic with an experimental ethos; thus, enacting a critique of the figure and teleological structure of practice, and posing a challenge to rethink and invitation to expand theatrical magic practice. In conclusion, the paper highlights some of the ways in which theatrical magic participates in the agenda to enchant the world that has so gripped social science.

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