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Henry Myers Lecture 2024: Chris Gosden
Wednesday 26 June 2024, 01:00pm - 02:30pm
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The Henry Myers Lecture 2024

Wednesday 26 June 2024  at 1.00-2.3-pm (BST)

Beveridge Hall, Senate House, University of London

Book a ticket here (click on 'Join the guestlist')
This talk is part of the Anthropology and Education Conference, but can be attended for free without registering for the conference. Conference delegates don't need to book an extra ticket. 



Make Believe: a processual and material approach to the deep history of magic and religion


Chris Gosden, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford


The long history of human relations with the sentient universe and later on with deities has yet to be written. Currently, a useful distinction has been made between immanence (designating a sentient, enchanted universe) and transcendence (the emergence of deities operating beyond the human sphere) (Strathern 2019, Sahlins 2022). I have used a similar distinction, but prefer the terms magic and religion (Gosden 2021). Both magical and religious practices unfold at a series of entangled temporal scales, with magical practices perhaps as old as Homo sapiens and religion probably coming into the world a little over 7000 years ago, after which they exist in tension with each other. I will briefly lay out my starting point for explication of these histories in Material Engagement Theory and enactive signification. But I am most interested in attempting to sketch some long-term histories, looking also at the cultural influence of transcendent theories in the recent period, where they might also be echoed in the so-called ‘invisible hand of the market’.



Gosden, C. 2021. The History of Magic. London: Viking.

Sahlins, M. 2022. The New Science of the Science of the Enchanted Universe. An Anthropology of Most of Humanity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Strathern, A. 2019. Unearthly Powers. Religious and Political Change in World History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Beveridge Hall
Senate House
Malet Street