Sugata Nandi

Junior Core Fellow
Period of Stay: 
January – March 2023
West Bengal State University, Kolkata, India
Project Title: 
Subversive Orient: Globalization of Indian Magic and the West, c.1790-1940
Project Abstract: 

Indian magic, meaning inexplicable tricks of Indian magicians and feats attributed to Indian holy men, was globalized by the West from late eighteenth to the mid twentieth century. It challenged the modern western project of disenchantment because a large number Westerners believed that India magic was truly supernatural being rooted in Hinduism and beyond the grasp of modern science. Accounts written by Europeans and Americans who had been to India, which appeared in popular print in ever larger numbers from the early nineteenth century affirmed such a view, leading gentleman magicians, who appropriated Indian magic for fame and money from the 1840s, to debunk it as a set of lowly hoaxes. While their efforts resulted in anthropological and ethnological studies of Indian magic, they could not prevent western Spiritualists, intellectuals and cultural rebels from seeking the knowledge of the highest form of magic in Hinduism for salvation of the soul.