Images at work: The material culture of enchantment


Advocates of the ideology of modern progress and rationalism are fond of regarding human beings as rational agents and the universe as a collection of inanimate things that obey laws and do not exhibit agency. Yet evidence of nonrational practices of enchantment abounds in every part of human life: people commonly regard things as capable of independent action and expect the universe to respond to their desire for magic, miracles, and action at a distance. Clearly, rationalism is not as pervasive or singularly influential as some would insist. Enchantment consists of the things we do and how we do them to make the world go our way. This book argues that enchantment is not simply an irrational, primitive impulse that needs to be curbed or eliminated, but should be understood as problem solving. Images are ways of working on the world to achieve what people need. Images at Work explores how images operate, what their effects on viewers are, and how enchantment can be understood as visual dynamics that we need to take seriously. Enchantment is more than religion and is not identical with magic. And its effects are not fully discernible apart from its material culture because enchantment is about things and our engagement with them.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Morgan, D

Published Date

  • January 1, 2018

Start / End Page

  • 1 - 230

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780190272111

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/oso/9780190272111.001.0001

Citation Source

  • Scopus