Magic, (colonial) science and science studies
Article first published online: 20 NOV 2013
© 2013 European Association of Social Anthropologists.
Special Issue: Thinking with Latour
Volume 21, Issue 4, pages 492–509, November 2013
How to Cite
Wiener, M. J. (2013), Magic, (colonial) science and science studies. Social Anthropology, 21: 492–509. doi: 10.1111/1469-8676.12042
- Issue published online: 20 NOV 2013
- Article first published online: 20 NOV 2013
This article draws on Latour's ethnography of science, analysis of the Great Divide and call for a symmetrical anthropology, to follow magic's emergence as a modern category. The focus is ethnology in colonial Indonesia. Tracing a practice initially known as guna-guna, it analyses five successive Dutch texts. Early texts show that guna-guna could affect Europeans but purify guna-guna's effects as either natural or cultural/psychological. In later texts, that translate guna-guna as magic, references to Europeans, efficacy and substances vanish; guna-guna is simply a culturally specific belief. Terming practices magic has ontological and political consequences; irreduction offers an alternative to analytic habits that yield magic.