Debunk Me Not: Magic and MARGINALIZATION, 1848-Present

Debunk Me Not: Magic and Marginalization, 1848-Present explores the communities at the margins of normative science whose supernatural belief systems were written out of Western modernity’s project of secularization in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This book is especially timely given the resurgence of magical and occult practices among LGBTQ and/or communities of color. In order for us to understand why these alternative methodologies are speaking to Millennials and Generation Z, we have to go back to the nineteenth century, when magic cleaves from science and establishes the rigid divide between normal science and (para)normal science.

I return to the artists, supernatural testimonies, photographers and figures such as Pamela Colman Smith, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Mary Todd Lincoln and Nettie Colburn Maynard, Lincoln’s alleged spirit medium, black clairvoyant physician and sex magician Pascal Beverly Randolph, Pauline Hopkins, Julia Margaret Cameron, and James VanDerZee. My methodology combines literary with visual studies and analysis to uncover how authors, photographers, and famed individuals gravitated toward an invisible world that better accommodated their experiences than the toxic masculinity, and white-raced scientific system that obscured the ambiguous and the unverifiable.