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Book: Enchantment

Chapter: Enchantment and Exclusion

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.43967


In this chapter, I describe how enchantment and related terms including magic and superstition have been and continue to be used as markers of difference that exclude particular individuals and groups in various ways. I trace a brief history of the terms magic and superstition in order to show how these common descriptors of enchantment have been used to mark particular beliefs and practices as unacceptable, dangerous, and as worthy of exclusion. First, I outline how both terms were used within religious discourse to exclude unacceptable beliefs and practices. Next, I explore how the meaning of each shifted after the Enlightenment such that both magic and superstition became markers of credulity, faulty reasoning, and intellectual inferiority rather than religious unacceptability. Finally, I show how discourse surrounding magic, superstition, and by extension enchantment works to exclude particular groups and individuals including religious individuals, indigenous persons, people of colour, women, and children from the standard model of modern, intelligent, and rational human beings.

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