European Association of Southeast Asian Studies conference

Isabell Herrmans (Speaker: Presenter)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesPublic Talks


Magic in modernity: a case study from Borneo

Michael Taussig (2015) has proposed “apotropaic writing” as a sort of countermagic against the “agribusiness writing” – writing that knows no wonder – so common in anthropology today, and especially in studies of magical healing rituals. Similarly to how apotropaic magic is used to ward off harmful magic, apotropaic writing aims to counter the purported realism of agribusiness writing through re-enchantment. Taking inspiration from Taussig, this paper seeks to study magic and healing among the Luangans of Indonesian Borneo by evoking a series of aporetic events, characterized as much by unknowing as by knowing, in which a man was silently accused of causing various members of his family harm, both directly and through sorcery, when they refused to sell land to a palm oil company. Perhaps in an attempt to counter such accusations he insisted on conducting a healing ritual for a young woman suffering from repeated spells of fainting, engendering mixed feelings of fear and hope among the few people brave enough to attend the event. Rather than seeking to explain these events, the paper examines them as interminable experiences, trying to evoke the ambiguous feelings most Luangans felt against the agri-business of palm oil cultivation (and its disenchantments), and magic in modernity (and its re-enchantments).

Period16 Aug 2017 - 18 Aug 2017
Event typeConference
LocationOxford, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational