2023-2024 Catalog

RELS 259 Black Magic

Stories of child sacrifice. Rumors of necromancy. Images of “voodoo dolls.” In this class, students will survey a variety of magical practices throughout the Americas to ask: what is magic, and what makes it “black?” Using a series of case studies set throughout the Americas, we’ll trace the shifting boundaries between magic, religion, and reason from the colonial period to today. Students will engage sources like inquisition records, legal statutes, newspaper records, and films and fiction, to see how depictions of witchcraft and sorcery have been used to stigmatize certain traditions and people, ranging from Catholics in the United States to practitioners of African-inspired religions in Cuba and Brazil. And in doing so, we’ll learn how magic has been a key site for negotiating questions of race, progress, and citizenship in modernity.


4 units

Cross Listed Courses

BLST 259

Core Requirements Met

  • Global Connections