In the humanities scholars seek answers to questions related to the role that conjuring plays in society.
The humanities are a broad group of human sciences that covers many interests. In the literature on conjuring, scholars have studied the performance aspects and its social history. More specialised works have been published in the areas of gender and film studies. In each of these aspects of the humanities conjuring is interrogated with very different questions:
- Performance Studies: What are the theatrical considerations in performing magic tricks?
- Social History: What role did magicians play in society through the ages?
- Film Studies: What was the involvement of magicians in early film history?
- Gender Studies: Why is magic a male dominated performance art?
Library studies is a specialised field within the humanities. Magicians are avid collectors of books on their craft and several have bequeathed their collections to academic institutions. Kattelman (2008) provides a succinct overview of academic collections of conjuring books and Gallacher (2006) and Awcock (2004) describe Will Alma’ bequest to the National Library of Victoria. Some other collections of magicana:
- University of Texas: McManus-Young Collection and Houdini Collection
- Brown University: H. Adrian Smith Collection of Conjuring and Magicana
- State Library of New South Wales: Robbins Stage Magic Collection.
Surprisingly little research has been undertaken into the culture of contemporary magicians, except for the works on gender differences and a study by Peter Nardi on the level of belief in the paranormal among magicians. Children’s author Sid Fleishman (1949) analysed the specific language used by magicians and how this has influenced common language with words such as misdirection and gimmick. Sociologist Robert Stebbins published a comprehensive overview of magicians, focusing on the differences between professionals and amateurs. Fellow sociologist Robert Prus researched the culture of road hustlers and included interviews with performing magicians. He co-authored his work with a recently graduated student and former card cheat who published under the pseudonym Sharper. Anthropologist Graham Jones wrote his dissertation on French magicians in which he explored the knowledge networks that they use to learn their craft.