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Conjuring Asia
Magic, Orientalism, and the Making of the Modern World

$32.99 (P)

  • Date Published: July 2016
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107433823

$ 32.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • The promise of magic has always commanded the human imagination, but the story of industrial modernity is usually seen as a process of disenchantment. Drawing on the writings and performances of the so-called 'Golden Age Magicians' from the turn of the twentieth century, Chris Goto-Jones unveils the ways in which European and North American encounters with (and representations of) Asia - the fabled Mystic East - worked to re-enchant experiences of the modern world. Beginning with a reconceptualization of the meaning of 'modern magic' itself - moving beyond conventional categories of 'real' and 'fake' magic - Goto-Jones' acclaimed book guides us on a magical mystery tour around India, China, and Japan, showing us levitations and decapitations, magic duels and bullet catches, goldfish bowls and paper butterflies. In the end, this mesmerizing book reveals Orientalism as a kind of magic in itself, casting a spell over Western culture that leaves it transformed, even today.

    • Proposes a unified theory of magic, exploiting primary sources by magicians
    • Analyzes representations of, and encounters with, Asia in the cultural imagination of the West
    • Provides a new perspective on Orientalism as a fantasy of Asia, focused specifically on magic
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "If magic is the art of accomplishing the impossible, Goto-Jones emerges as a scholar-magician: a wonder-full book!"
    Derren Brown, mentalist and illusionist

    "Goto-Jones opens with a surprise: far from killing magic, modern science made it better. But his main trick is to follow magicians on a cross-cultural chase to India, China and Japan; what began as a celebration of the Golden Age of Magic becomes a treatise on global modernity. This is performance research at its finest."
    Martin Puchner, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    "A flying carpet of brilliant colors; a work of great originality and charm, dexterity and verve."
    Julia Adeney Thomas, University of Notre Dame, Indiana

    'Unpicking the role of Orientalism in the Western cultural imagination in a highly readable account that is ultimately a treatise on modernity, [Goto-Jones] argues that, far from killing magic, modern science made it better.' Karen Shook, Times Higher Education

    'The book Conjuring Asia explores four major themes in the development of what we call magic: white or black magic, and Oriental or Western magic. … This is not a how-to-do-magic book but a historical treatise. It is exceedingly well researched and footnoted, with the footnotes allowing for easy additional study. The book gives the reader a great fundamental understanding of what and why magic is what it is today.' Ralph Peterson, San Francisco Book Review

    'It is very rare that I read a book three times but this was one of those rare books. … Jones has gone to incredible length to do search out the top magical scholars and thinkers and piece together a modern view on magic. This is definitely a book written by a scholar and is an extremely intelligent and well written look at not just Asian magic but an educated look at modern magic. … The book is at the same time a history of magic in its Golden Age, an exploration of the imagination of the East and of our passion for exoticism, and a fair analysis of political issues connected with ethnicity, representation and perception and discrimination. … A Must Read for Every Single Magician.' Paul Romhany, Vanish Magazine

    '… thoroughly probes another largely neglected component of Orientalism - magic, especially with reference to India, China and Japan. …Moreover, it studies energetically and effectively various facets of Oriental(ist) magic. The author’s presentation is strikingly fresh, rather captivating.' Abdur Raheem Kidway, The Muslim World Book Review

    'Modernity and magic are usually seen in opposition to one another, as in early modern Europe. In Chris Goto-Jones's extraordinary book, we see that they were in fact intricately intertwined as modern Asia came into being. By combining ideas about illusion and reality with the discourse of progress in China, Japan, and India, Goto-Jones gives us a wholly original, deeply thoughtful, and innovative approach to the history of colonial and semi-colonial Asia, as well as representations of Asia in the West.' Rana Mitter, University of Oxford

    'Conjuring Asia is a wonderful book - yes, full of wonders - at once erudite and entertaining, dazzling. It is full of marvelous material gleaned from hard-to-come-by and all-too-overlooked popular sources. This stupendous research has been judiciously organized into Goto-Jones’ eloquent, articulate, insightful and engaging critical analysis of a historical and modern transnational culture of magic.' Lee Siegel, University of Hawaii

    'With Chris Goto-Jones's Conjuring Asia, the academic study of secular magic comes of age. Surprisingly enough, that is because the book itself is so formally inventive and such fun to read. For scholars, yes indeed. But for all magic fans too.' Simon During, University of Queensland

    'Modernity is often seen as superseding magic and the occult, but this survey of Orientalist stage magic seeks to show modernity was less opposed to enchantment than is generally thought, and that their intertwined existence was revitalized by the idea of the East as the source of wonders … Demonstrating Orientalism as 'a kind of magic itself', Goto-Jones’s enthusiastic and generous book is an engaging performance.' Phil Baker, The Times Literary Supplement

    'What is magic? What is good magic? What is modern magic? In what ways is modern magic racist and chauvinistic? What is the role of magic in the history of knowledge? How does magic fit in the academic world? [These] are just some of the questions Conjuring Asia approaches … And if you are prepared to put some effort in, then I suspect you will finish reading provoked to think in new ways about a number of really fundamental questions about conjuring … the effort you put in with Chris Goto-Jones’s work will be well rewarded.' Will Houstoun, The Magic Circular

    'If you have ever wondered about the performance magic of India, China or Japan this is the book to read. It is a thoroughly engaging study, with approachable scholarship and fascinating notes; it considers these ‘Oriental’ magics not only historically but also philosophically, culturally and politically. A truly wonderful book.' Eugene Burger, magician and author

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107433823
    • length: 336 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 151 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.56kg
    • contains: 14 b/w illus.
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: magic in the world
    Part I:
    1. Modern magic in history and theory
    2. A theory of modern magic
    3. Oriental(ist) magic
    Part II:
    4. Indian magic and magic in India
    5. Chinese magic and magic in China
    6. Japanese magic and magic in Japan
    Conclusion: magic in the world.

  • Author

    Chris Goto-Jones, Universiteit Leiden
    Chris Goto-Jones was educated at the Universities of Cambridge, Keio, and Oxford. He is the Inaugural Chair Professor of Comparative Philosophy and Political Thought at Universiteit Leiden, Professorial Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. He was previously Professor of Modern Japan Studies, Director of the Modern East Asia Research Centre, Leiden, and Founding Dean of Leiden University College, The Hague. In addition, he is an Associate of the Inner Magic Circle. He is co-founder of the 'Political and Philosophical Arts Initiative' and a 'VICI' laureate of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). He has published widely in the fields of political thought, comparative philosophy, and Asian studies; in terms of popularizing publications, he is author of A Very Short Introduction to Modern Japan (2009), which has been translated into many languages worldwide.

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