Based on the experiences outlined in Going On as well as my initial reading of literature about magic, at the start of spring in 2018 I began fashioning preliminary ideas for academic papers. This entry will serve as a depository for these emerging thoughts. With time, these ideas might prove naïve or already well-worn. Already looking back at some of the entries in this web site only a few weeks after writing them, some of the points made read as informed by assumptions that look decidedly shaky now. I take this is a sign of learning!

Paper #1 (11 March 2018) —
“Pick a Card, Any Card”: Learning about the Care of Deception

With its asymmetries in knowledge regarding the underlying hidden mechanisms, ‘conjuring’ is often presented as an exercise in power, manipulation, and control — all firmly residing in the hands of magicians. This overall portrayal of the magician-as-manipulator is in line with the bounded and often speculative regard for audiences within attempts to theorize magic as a craft.

In contrast, this paper starts from the experiences of the author — a beginner magician. Through surveying cycles of action, dialogue, and reflection with audiences, I want to identify some of the many choices and tensions that can be associated with avowed deception. Regard for these choices and tensions will be marshalled to conceive of magic as a form of social interaction; an interaction in which audiences figure as collaborators rather than mere spectators.

The purpose is not to put forward a definitive understanding of magic, but instead to assess what is at stake in it as an activity. I propose a complementary way of understanding magic; namely as an activity of caring. Rather than idealizing this notion, caring is treated as a form of relationality involving selective attention in which questions of power, manipulation, and asymmetries can loom large. In addition to these aspects of control and disciplining though, the metaphor of caring also points toward the inter-dependencies, interconnectedness, and affective charges of embodied and situated interactions. Approached through this kind of underlying understanding, a host of different relevances and questions come to the fore about how magic is accomplished, the varieties of interactions possible, as well as what is at stake in its conceptualization.