Events / Updates

Magical Objects: A Workshop

Thursday, November 24th, 5-6:30pm

The Ethnography Lab is pleased to launch its 2016-2017 Workshop Series.

emily-magical-objectMagical objects are a type of object that are thought to have either intrinsic supernatural powers or the ability to help connect people with a supernatural world in some way. As objects, they can act as potent signifiers, communicating a range of cosmological ideas. However, to understand these objects requires a significant amount of background information about the possibilities of the supernatural world they index. Interpreting these objects also involves knowledge about the context in which they were produced and circulated. Without this information these objects could be read as mundane, as opposed to “magical”. In this workshop we will begin with an activity focusing on some atypical magical objects I acquired during my ethnographic fieldwork in Indonesia. We will brainstorm ways to interpret these objects in stages. In each stage I will help to explain more of the contextual details that may make these objects legible to different groups of people. After this we will try to position these objects alongside examples of other kinds of magical objects, comparing the kinds and breadth of contextual data needed to interpret them as supernatural.

Workshop Facilitator: Emily Hertzman, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Emily Hertzman is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology, at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral research focuses on Chinese Indonesian mobilities and subjectivities. She is a member of the Ethnography Lab and works on several projects in the city of Toronto, including the Kensington Market Research Project, and a project collecting Chinese Canadian oral histories.  While studying migration patterns and practices in Borneo, West Kalimantan, she encountered a widely popular practice of Chinese spirit-mediumship, a tradition that includes many different sorts of magical objects. While not a specialist in the anthropology of religion or magic herself, she welcomes experts to this workshop to create a richer dialogue and more productive group analysis.

Join us in the Ethnography Lab Seminar Room, located in the Anthropology Building, room 330, on  Thursday Nov. 24th from 5-6:30pm for stimulating discussion.

This series is FREE and OPEN to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Contact Jessika Tremblay at for more information.


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