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Book: Thinking with J. Z. Smith

Chapter: 5. When No "Magic" Dwells

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.39929


By surveying the category of magic in J. Z. Smith’s work, and specifically by focusing on his essay “Trading Places,” Andrew Durdin argues that a closer engagement with Smith’s use of the category of magic can clarify his methodological concepts of redescription and rectification, and, in turn, usefully enlarge Smith’s theoretical contributions for future work in the study of religion. According to Durdin, “trading places” is another rendering of Smith’s notions of redescription and rectification, key components of his proposed method of comparison. By comparing different articulations Smith has given for redescription and rectification, Durdin shows that “trading places” can be understood as a more radical view of these two components, insofar as Smith calls for the full rejection of a standard academic term, magic, rather than simply suggest critical self-consciousness, as he does with religion.

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