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Research at St Andrews

Not-knowing magic: magical memory and ineffability in Cyprus and Orkney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Open Access Status

  • Embargoed (until 8/06/21)

Author(s)

Theodoros Kyriakides , Richard Irvine

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Our research explores the modern status of magic in two different European island settings: Cyprus and Orkney. By historically and ethnographically addressing the gradual dissolution of magical traditions in our respective fieldsites, our aim is to explore the means and instances by which magic continues to manifest in narratives and everyday practices. By exploring the current epistemological and social standing attributed to magic in Cyprus and Orkney societies, we wish to enrich anthropological understandings of the manner by which magic emerges from the conditions of unknowing that permeate processes of modernity whilst nevertheless remaining external to it. We approach such objectives by critiquing the implicit suggestion contained, but often not articulated or theorised within anthropological literature, that humans ‘know’ magic. Through our ethnography, we attempt to show that magic in these two islands does not persist through the ability of people to understand or rationalise magic as a thing of the past, but rather emerges through an awareness of historical, social, and cognitive incompleteness, accumulated and contained within dormant magical memory. We hence wish to identify and further theorise a central, modern tenet of magic: the unknowability contained and nourished in social and cognitive processes, through which the possibility - future and past - of magic is thought of and narrated in disenchanted worlds. As we suggest, not-knowing, in such sense, does not merely signal lack of knowledge but a mode of thinking and modernity specific to Cypriot and Orcadian modernity.
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Details

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalEthnos
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date8 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Dec 2019

    Research areas

  • Magic, Modernity, Disenchantment, Memory, Knowledge

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