We’re a network of scholars who seek to develop enchantment as an organizing theme in historical studies of capitalism. We hope to provide a platform for those interested in the historical role of enchantment as a tool, structure, or foundation for the organisation and the development of modern markets, economic institutions, and economic relationships.
From February to May 2022, we ran a series of roundtables to converge discussion around a set of leading texts that represent existing conceptual and historical scholarship on enchantment in modernity, from the fields of theology, anthropology, the history of science, literature and art, philosophy, marketing and business.
The goal was to map existing knowledge as well as draw out theoretical points of contention through joint readings and discussion of a set of questions relevant for the history of capitalism. For example, we explored:
- What constitutes enchantment in theories of modern religion, of magic, or of other belief systems or ontologies?
- Is enchantment theorized and investigated as a structural or as an individual phenomenon?
- Is enchantment described as a continuous phenomenon (ongoing enchantment), as a new phenomenon (re-enchantment that followed disenchantment), or as historically-specific constellations that change across time and space?
- Is enchantment conceptualized as manipulation or as a form of agency?
- Is materiality fundamental to enchantment?
During the summer and fall of 2022, we also recorded conversations with scholars on enchantment about their work. These conversations are available as podcasts and transcripts.
We are also holding work-in-progress meetings with 10-15 minute presentations, followed by a discussion. Meetings are held on selected Thursdays or Fridays. Check our events page for upcoming meetings, or, if you would like to participate, get in touch with a title, an abstract, a brief bio, your time zone, and preferred dates.
Finally, we held a conference on 29-30 June at King’s College London. Click here for the agenda and abstracts.
Anat Rosenberg is a senior lecturer at the Harry Radzyner Law School, Reichman University, Israel. Her work concerns the cultural legal history of capitalism, liberalism and consumption in Britain, and methodologies of law and the humanities. She is author of Liberalizing Contracts: Nineteenth Century Promises Through Literature, Law and History (2018), and The Rise of Mass Advertising: Law, Enchantment and the Cultural Boundaries of British Modernity (forthcoming).
Kristof Smeyers is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ruusbroec Institute, University of Antwerp. His research interests are magic, the supernatural and the occult, and their connections to the histories of religion, science and folklore, as well as their historiography and their archive history.
Astrid Van den Bossche is Lecturer in Digital Marketing and Communications at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London. She is particularly interested in scepticism and humour as forms of engagement with promotional culture, and the application of computational methods in historical studies.
Rachel Bowlby FBA, Professor of Comparative Literature at University College London, is the author of several books on consumer culture, including Just Looking (on nineteenth-century department stores); Shopping with Freud; Carried Away: The Invention of Modern Shopping (on supermarkets and self-service); Talking Walking; and most recently, Back to the Shops, forthcoming in 2021.
Richard Hornsey is Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Nottingham. He is a cultural historian of nineteenth and twentieth-century urban Britain. He is the author of The Spic and the Architect: Unruly Life in Postwar London (2010). He is currently writing a book entitled The Wonderland of Common Things: England in the Age of Mass Production.
Peter Knight is a professor of American Studies at the University Manchester (and currently a visiting professor at Leiden University). He is the author of three monographs, including Reading the Market: Genres of Financial Capitalism in Gilded Age America (2016).
Stefan Schwarzkopf is Associate Professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He devotes most of his research to the question of how markets became pervasive socio-technological-economic arrangements. His work has been appeared in journals such as Business History, the Journal of Cultural Economy, the Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, and Marketing Theory.
Usva Seregina (PhD) is a visual artist and an interdisciplinary researcher, with their work encompassing such fields as consumer research, sociology, anthropology, performance studies, and art education. Seregina is actively developing art-based and performance-based research methodologies and has previously published a book on the role of fantasy in consumer culture.
James Taylor is a Senior Lecturer in History at Lancaster University. He has written widely on the development of the corporate economy in Britain since 1720, particularly from cultural and legal perspectives. His third book is Boardroom Scandal: The Criminalization of Company Fraud in Nineteenth-Century Britain (2013).
Daniel Pick is Professor of History and a psychoanalyst, and is leading a research group at Birkbeck entitled Hidden Persuaders: Brainwashing, Culture, Clinical Knowledge and the Cold War Human Sciences, c. 1950-1990.
Want to be involved? Contact us!
This network’s activities have generously been funded by the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London.