From HAU

Though his work was little known outside Italian intellectual circles for most of the twentieth century, anthropologist and historian of religions Ernesto de Martino is now recognized as one of the most original thinkers in the field. This book is testament to de Martino’s innovation and engagement with Hegelian historicism and phenomenology—a work of ethnographic theory way ahead of its time.

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This new translation of “Sud e Magia”, his 1959 study of ceremonial magic and witchcraft in southern Italy, shows how De Martino is not interested in the question of whether magic is rational or irrational but rather in why it came to be perceived as a problem of knowledge in the first place. Setting his exploration within his wider, pathbreaking theorization of ritual, as well as in the context of his politically sensitive analysis of the global south’s historical encounters with Western science, he presents the development of magic and ritual in Enlightenment Naples as a paradigmatic example of the complex dynamics between dominant and subaltern cultures. Far ahead of its time, Magic is still relevant as anthropologists continue to wrestle with modernity’s relationship with magical thinking.

“Perhaps because he was uniquely equipped to bridge the chasm between philological folklore studies and the field orientation of anthropology, Ernesto de Martino was also a pioneer in his recognition of both the theoretical capacities of ordinary people and the historical formation of ideas—notably magic—that are often presented as existing in a timeless past. His encyclopedic knowledge gives substance to a careful exploration of the dynamics that conjoin subaltern with hegemonic cultural forms and practices, leading us, in a remarkable anticipation of current anthropological views, to a reflexive reappraisal of the meanings of “rationality” and “Enlightenment.” Dorothy Louise Zinn’s precise and lucid translation brings a clear focus to the originality as well as the groundedness of de Martino’s observations on the role of social agency and historical contingency in the operation of thought and reason.”

—Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University

About Manuel Congo

A renowned Palero, Babalawo, Ajarn and Hougan, Manuel Congo lives in rural Italy, where he spends most of his free time touring on his custom Harley Davidson. An avid ethnographer and noted expert on Italian witchcraft, Manuel has spent decades working for elite clients around the world, conducting investigations in locales as far-flung as Togo and Thailand. He enjoys rainy days, BBQ and blondes.

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