The magic ballot

Arjun Appadurai at The Immanent Frame:

Arjunpicture_smallI regret that we are forced to catch the special aura of this election without a deep and serious space for the idea of magic, magic as it used to be. It would help us fill this rhetorical void. It would let us name the un-nameable and it would let us enjoy our means even without certainty about our ends. It would let us enjoy this week without dragging it immediately into boring predictions about what Nancy Pelosi will do, about how many huge headaches Obama will face, about how heavy the coming storm will be, and how fragile our collective sources. We have hardly crowned Obama and we have promptly begun to mourn for him, as if he is has already been vanquished by his foes. In the name of hard talk and pragmatism, realistic expectations and balanced judgments, rolling up our sleeves and keen to fix the leaks in the roof and the flood in the basement, we are refusing ourselves the joy of inhabiting what David Gregory called the transcendent, for it is too close to the language of official religion to be acceptable or satisfying for too long.

Magic, anthropologists have always known, is about what people throughout the world do when faced with uncertainty, catastrophic damage, injustice, illness, suffering or harm, while ritual (also magical in its logic) is performed to forestall or prevent these very things. Magic is not about deficient logic, childish mental mistakes, clever priestly illusions or other mistaken technologies. It is the universal feeling that what we see and feel exceeds our knowledge, our understanding and our control.

More here.

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