Queer enchantments : walking between the worlds with male witches in North America

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2016-05

Authors

Batiste, Dominique Pierre

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Abstract

The overall goal of this project is to follow the ways in which enchantment can become a central component, embedded within daily practices, by which people make an effort to bring meaning into their lives. Scholars, from a range of disciplines, have studied enchantment in an effort to theorize the psychological, aesthetic, and social characteristics of modernity. They argue that the world is either completely disenchanted, or, that there are short-lived, immobilizing, moments of enchantment, that slip through the cracks of modernity, briefly capturing individuals, before the enchantment breaks, and ‘returns’ a person, once again, to ‘normal’ life. This project follows the lines of what I call a ‘queer ecology of enchantment,’ co-created by men practicing forms of witchcraft in The United States, who produce an empirical and epistemological space in which human and non-human forces and forms coalesce. This enchanted state, which I call coalescence, is not momentary and fleeting, but is an enchanted refrain that is consistently inhabited, as an affective state of being, a form of know-how, a co-production of space, and facilitates the unfolding of queer worlds, and produces the daily practices required for navigating these worlds. Academically, witchcraft in the U.S. has been explored as a religion, a magical system, and a set of ceremonial performances, that focuses upon predominantly female participants in a predominantly female-centered spirituality; this project focuses upon men in the witchcraft movement, and looks closely at the informal daily practices of male witches, in order to trace the ways in which human and non-human objects are given value and intensified through orientations and attunements to enchantment. I argue that it is the daily practices of witchcraft, and not formalized magical or ceremonial settings, that constitute the subjectivity of ‘witch,’ producing a particular relationship between witches and their environments that manifests as intensely political, without being couched in terms of politics or political activism. This project is an experimental, ethnography-based contribution to affect studies, anthropology, sociology, psychology, religious studies, new materialism, cultural geography, and the emerging field of pagan studies, that situates enchantment, and witchcraft, in relation to social strategies connected to health movement, American spirituality, and queer forms of sociality.

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