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Discover The Story Behind The Globalisation of Indian Magic at the Visiting Research Fellowship Lecture 2019


Join Dr Sugata Nandi, Assistant Professor of History at the West Bengal State University, on Wednesday 25 September as he delivers the culminating lecture of his 2019 Visiting Research Fellowship at Senate House Library, in partnership with the Friends of Senate House Library


Dr Nandi has used Senate House Library’s extensive collection of memoirs, reports, books, illustrations and silent films created by European colonialists to understand how formerly anonymous Indian magicians convinced Westerners, even to this day, of their supernatural powers. His lecture will focus on the question that guided his enquiry: 

“What drove statesmen, journalists, eminent scientists and modern magicians of the West to try (with little success) to establish that the Indian Rope trick - the most astonishing and intriguing of all Indian magical acts - was nothing but a trick?” Dr Sugata Nandi, Visiting Research Fellow at Senate House Library

Dr Nandi's work will be the first to address the history of Indian magic as part of the larger history of creation of an Orientalist narrative leading to India’s characterisation as a distant magical land in the modern world. His work will culminate in a book spanning the period 1790-1950, examining fantastic accounts of magic unique to India, many of which reached the West through travellers’ tales that increased enormously with the rise of popular print, in Britain especially, from early nineteenth century. 

About Dr Sugata Nandi:

Dr Sugata Nandi is Assistant Professor of History at the West Bengal State University, Kolkata, researching the history of globalisation of Indian magic from the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century. His research explores how the West orientalised India by appropriating aspects of its religion, culture and forms of entertainment as magic, and how this in turn generated tensions within Orientalism itself.