Academic Magic: Performance and the Communication of Fundamental Ideas.


This paper advances the case for how performance magic can be used as a larger medium for communicating fundamental ideas and addressing enduring questions. The paper begins with a stylized definition of performance magic as having a role for ‘disruption’ and ‘subversion’ in terms of audience perception of reality as well as an audience’s set of beliefs, predispositions, and ‘lifeworlds’. The section also engages with performance magicians as well as luminaries from the occult and Western esoteric traditions to illustrate the disruptive function of magicians broadly understood. The second part provides an overview of mentalism and mystery entertainment as a sub-genre within performance magic that is highly amenable to a more academic frame and mode of delivery. The third part outlines how key principles and effects from this sub-genre of performance magic can be applied to two broad areas of academic concern: (1) epistemology and the human condition, and (2) larger political and philosophical questions of morality, justice, rights, agency, and the power of the state. The paper concludes with a short summary and implications for the future of performance magic that moves beyond mere entertainment.


language, human rights, epistemology, mind reading, academic magic, mentalism, disruption, justice, morality, philosophy

How to Cite

Landman T., (2018) “Academic Magic: Performance and the Communication of Fundamental Ideas.”, Journal of Performance Magic 5(1). doi:






Todd Landman (University of Nottingham)





Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

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This article has been peer reviewed.

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