During the Enlightenment, Western scholars racialized ideas, deeming kwledge based on reality superior to that based on ideality. Scholars labeled inquiries into ideality, such as animism and soul migration, savage philosophy, a clear indicator of the racism motivating the distinction between the real and the ideal. In their view, savage philosophers mistake connections between signs for connections between real objects and believe that discourse can have physical effects - in other words, they believe in magic. Christopher Bracken's Magical Criticism brings the unackwledged history of this racialization to light and shows how, even as we have rejected ethcentric tions of the savage, they remain active today in everything from attacks on postmodernism to Native American land disputes. Here Bracken reveals that many of the most influential Western thinkers dabbled in savage philosophy, from Marx, Nietzsche, and Proust to Freud, Charles Sanders Peirce, and Walter Benjamin. For Bracken, this recourse to savage philosophy presents an opportunity to reclaim a magical criticism that can explain the very real effects created by the discourse of historians, anthropologists, philosophers, the media, and governments.
Christopher Bracken is associate professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. He is the author of The Potlatch Papers: A Colonial Case History, also published by the University of Chicago Press.