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Conjuring Asia


Book Summary: Conjuring Asia: Magic, Orientalism, and The Making of The Modern World


  • Theme: The book delves into the intricate relationship between magic, Orientalism, and the shaping of modern global perspectives.
  • Background: Chris Goto-Jones explores the historical and cultural significance of 'magic' in the context of Asia, challenging Western perceptions and stereotypes.

Key Themes

  1. Magic as a Cultural Lens:

    • The author examines how magic has been a tool for understanding and misrepresenting Asian cultures in the West.
    • Magic is portrayed as both a mystical and exotic element, often used to reinforce Orientalist views.
  2. Orientalism and Its Impact:

    • Discussion on Edward Said's concept of Orientalism and its application in the realm of magic and mysticism.
    • How the West's fascination with the 'mysterious East' has led to a skewed representation of Asian societies.
  3. Modern World Formation:

    • The influence of Asian magic and mysticism in shaping Western ideologies and cultural practices.
    • Magic as a metaphor for the unknown and the allure of the East in the Western imagination.

Analysis and Discussion

  • Cultural Misrepresentation: The author critically analyses how Western narratives have often misrepresented Asian practices as solely magical or mystical.
  • Historical Context: Provides historical anecdotes and examples where magic was used as a form of entertainment, as well as a means of cultural exchange and misunderstanding.
  • Revisiting Stereotypes: Encourages readers to rethink and challenge the stereotypes associated with Asian magic and Orientalism.


  • Cultural Understanding: Emphasizes the importance of understanding cultural practices within their own contexts, rather than through an exotic or mystical lens.

  • Breaking Stereotypes: Calls for a more nuanced and respectful approach towards different cultures, particularly in how we perceive and interpret 'magic'.

  • Modern Implications: Highlights the ongoing impact of these historical perspectives in contemporary global relations and cultural exchanges.

  • Ideal for readers interested in cultural studies, history, and the intersection of Eastern and Western perspectives.

  • Provides valuable insights into how historical perceptions continue to shape modern understanding and relationships between different cultures.