• magic;
  • colonialism;
  • anthropology;
  • Indonesia;
  • Latour

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.