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Jesper Frøkjær Sørensen

Magic among the Trobrianders: Conceptual mapping in magical rituals

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How are magical rituals conceptually structured and how do these structures relate to both the general conceptual systems of a culture and to the cognition of individual participants? This paper will approach these and related questions through an analysis based on the theory of conceptual mappings and mental spaces developed by cognitive scientists Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner. Ritual structures are constructed through the process of conceptually blending separate cognitive domains; they are marked off from ordinary discourse as a specific cultural genre; and links based on identity, analogy, metaphor and metonymy facilitate the projection of both ritual efficacy and inferential structure into the ritual space. I will propose an open list of mappings in magical rituals consisting of the genetic, linguistic, and sympathetic blends. Subsequently, this cognitive approach will be applied to a classic area of research on magic, namely the Trobriand garden magic, as described by anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski. In the conclusion, results from this analysis will be related to long-standing problems and theoretical positions in the study of magic outlined in the introduction to the paper.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive Semiotics
Pages (from-to)36-64
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

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