Podcast episode 3: Isabelle Stengers

The Insurrection Interviews podcast is part of Magic and Ecology, a year-long series of talks and online events where we invite researchers thinking about magic in relation to ecology, and practitioners working with magic to transform modes of earth-living in order to enable collaborative thinking across disciplines and practices. In this episode your hosts Simone Kotva and Alice Tarbuck speak to Professor Isabelle Stengers about capitalist sorcery, animism and resurgence. Joining the conversation are Bethany Dubow and Jack Belloli, participants of the 2019-2020 Magic and Ecology reading group convened at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.  



Isabelle Stengers is Professor of Philosophy at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. An internationally acclaimed philosopher and cultural theorist, Isabelle is the co-author, with Philippe Pignarre, of Capitalist Sorcery: Breaking the Spell (Eng. trans. 2011), a remarkable essay demonstrating how the concept and person of the witch, as one who herself is capable of enchantment, wields a similar power to the capitalism that feeds ecological crisis and is thus uniquely placed to resist its “spell.” Magic is a theme Isabelle explores in many subsequent publications, for instance “Reclaiming Animism,” E-flux 26 (2012): 1-10, and most recently in English translation, Hypnosis: Between Science and Magic (Eng. translation 2019). 

Isabelle approaches magic as a practice with political as well as critical relevance, and is a reminder that today those of us who were raised to smirk at such things find it increasingly difficult to defend a view of the non-human world that does not recognize in it lively agency. Her writing engages with living traditions of magic and is an experiment in learning with those for whom the non-human is not a mass of inert stuff but a spirited life-world demanding our attention and interaction. Isabelle also worked on the French translation of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, by David Abram, who spoke with us in an earlier episode of the podcast; and both Isabelle and David’s work together have been an inspiration for this project, so it is a special delight to be able to have this conversation. 


Joining the conversation are Bethany Dubow and Jack Belloli. Bethany is a PhD student in the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, where Jack also completed his PhD. In 2019-2020 Bethany and Jack joined the Magic and Ecology reading group, a discussion forum convened at Emmanuel College and the catalyst for the present series of events.

Bethany will also be chairing the APOCALYPTIC CRAFT panel on 26 February 2020. 


MAGIC AND ECOLOGY is hosted by CRASSH the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge, and co-convened by Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal, Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe and Simone Kotva.