Here-there, sound-silence, self-other, structure-agency, good-evil. Often we make sense of what is around us through conceiving of the world in binary terms.
Many academic disciplines have attended to the relations between paired terms, in particular those that make sharp oppositions.
The notion of Othering concerns itself with how distinctions are drawn between individuals and between social groups – distinctions that involve assessment of worth – and how such distinctions are mobilized.
Another strategy for orientating to distinctions is to question how terms and categories are constructed through undertaking their deconstruction. In this way, what is assumed to be natural, central, fundamental, etc. can be shaken.
In my own theorizing about magic, I have sought to appreciate it as a practice that entails opposing but yet co-existing tendencies and features: control-cooperation, truth-deception, learning-unlearning, natural-contrived, etc. Rather than treating these terms as polar opposite states that are mutually incompatible, I consider how each term invariably involves an interplay between its notional opposite(s).
The matter of how seemingly opposite roles in social life are intertwined has long been a topic of consideration in the social sciences and humanities. One famous example is the philosopher Hegel’s master–slave dialectic.
My pathway for appreciating has been inspired by modern dialectical interpretations of classic Ying-Yang philosophy. Herein the presence of notionally opposing tendencies and features is not something to be avoided because it is necessarily disharmonious. Instead, pushes and pulls in this way and that are often inescapable. This issues are explored in my book Performing Deception.
The Dependencies video explores relations of mutual dependency in magic and beyond.