The Sarasota County School Board has unanimously agreed to a $600,000 settlement with the families of three students who committed suicide after apparently undergoing hypnosis by former North Port High School Principal George Kenney. Mr. Kenney admitted he hypnotized more than 70 students, seemingly in attempts to assist them in overcoming various problems. He was convicted of practicing therapeutic hypnosis without a license and sentenced to probation and community service; he also gave up his teaching license in 2013. More from the Sarasota Herald Tribune here, from Slate here.
We're not talking here about stage hypnosis or entertainment, here, but stage hypnotists have been sued over after-effects of their shows. Michael Heap writes about some instances here. See also Garrett Epps, "When You Wake You Will Feel No Remorse:" Stage Hypnotism and the Law," in Law and Magic: A Collection of Essays 263-278 (CAP, 2010).
Jared Kopf believes in the randomness of the universe. He might say that it was entirely random that I happened to be watching Penn and Teller: Fool Us rather than working on a piece that I need to send to my editor, that I'm interested in law and magic, that I maintain this blog, that he was on P&T: Fool Us tonight, and that all of these events came together.
Between Magic and Rationality: On the Limits of Reason in the Modern World (Vibeke Steffen, Steffen Joehncke, and Kirsten Marie Raahauge, eds.; Museum Tusculanum Press, 2015) (Critical Anthropology).
Here is a description of the contents from the publisher's website.
In Between Magic and Rationality, Vibeke Steffen, Steffen Jöhncke, and Kirsten Marie Raahauge bring together a diverse range of ethnographies that examine and explore the forms of reflection, action, and interaction that govern the ways different contemporary societies create and challenge the limits of reason. The essays here visit an impressive array of settings, including international scientific laboratories, British spiritualist meetings, Chinese villages, Danish rehabilitation centers, and Uzbeki homes, where we encounter a diverse assortment of people whose beliefs and concerns exhibit an unusual but central contemporary dichotomy: scientific reason vis-à-vis spiritual/paranormal belief. Exploring the paradoxical way these modes of thought push against reason’s boundaries, they offer a deep look at the complex ways they coexist, contest each other, and are ultimately intertwined.
The Palazón family suffered for months from a strange voice that seemed to emanate from the stove in the family home. The voice, or who- or whatever it represented, seemed to know the answers to questions put to it, which mystified the family, neighbors, and police. The family hired workmen to investigate the source of the voice. Finally, says Mr. Grundhauser, "[T]he local magistrate, who was eager to restore logic and order to the city, deemed the case to simply be an anomaly and the police withdrew. However, things were far from over."
Eventually, the governor of the province decided to end all discussion by announcing that the family maid, Pascuala Alcocer, was behind the strange events. She was, said the official, a victim of "unconsicous ventriloquism." Not everyone was convinced, however.
Here is more discussion of the Zaragoza Goblin (or duende) from Xavier Ortega.
Rostam J. Neuwirth, University of Macau, Faculty of Law, E32, has published Law and Magic: A(nother) Paradox? at 37 Thomas Jefferson Law Review 139 (2014). Here is the abstract.
In the past, paradoxes and similar rhetorical figures that are summarized by the term “essentially oxymoronic concepts”, have been frequently applied to describe mystical experiences or, more generally, “change” that represents the uncertain or the unknown. Thus, their usage has primarily been a privilege of the arts, literature or the occult sciences. Today, however, essentially oxymoronic concepts are increasingly permeating scientific, legal and other public discourses as much as advertisements or daily conversations. Concepts like “globalization paradox”, “co-opetition”, and “piracy paradox”, products labeled “ice tea” and “Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs)”, and films entitled “True Lies”, are just a few examples that testify to this wider trend. Their usage appears especially prevalent in attempts to scientifically describe and understand the often complex relations between two or more different phenomena or fields. In this regard, the relation between law and magic may be no exception, as it can also be framed by, or gives rise to, several paradoxes. For instance, in early history, and later, in the context of colonialism, laws have often outlawed magic as “witchcraft” or “charlatanry”, based on the belief that their character is irrational, as opposed to the rational character of the law. Paradoxically though, contemporary laws and legal practice still maintain a high degree of rites, rituals and rhetoric, similar to those that have been applied in magic. Similarly, as Jerome Frank has remarked, despite the law’s focus on certainty, it striking to see how often “magical phrases” are used in its language. The apparent contradictions in the nature and language of the law are therefore taken as an opportunity to cast some light on various issues that link law and magic in order to gain some insights about the nature, origin, and role of law generally.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. The article forms part of the conference papers from the Law and Magic symposium held at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, June 2014.
Fayetteville, North Carolina, defendant Abu-Bakr Abdur Rahman has had two run-ins this month with local judge Talmage Baggett over Mr. Rahman's Vodun beads. The judge objects to Mr. Rahman's wearing of the beads in court. In early July, Judge Baggett locked Mr. Rahman up for refusing to remove the beads after his honor told him to. Mr. Rahman said the beads represented his religion. Here is part of the transcript of their discussion over the beads (from the ABA Journal).
BAGGETT: You’re going to have to do better than this. I can’t have that in the courtroom.
RAHMAN: First Amendment—
BAGGETT: I don’t allow other people to get away with it. I’m not going to allow you to have a mess around your neck like that.
RAHMAN: The First Amendment guarantees me the right to free religion. If you lock up my religion—
BAGGETT: Sir, get outside, and either put it in or leave. That is your choice. Or come to the prisoners box. Now which would you rather do?
RAHMAN: You’re discriminating against my religion.
BAGGETT: I don’t know of any religion that requires you to wear this kind of stuff around your neck. I’m not familiar with your religion. I respect anybody’s religion, but get it off. … I’ll let you practice your religion right over here in the box.
On July 16, Mr. Rahman returned to court and the two squared off again, the judge again telling the defendant to hide his beads under his shirt or leave the court, and Mr. Rahman refusing. Finally, Judge Baggett assigned the case to a different judge.
Said Mr. Rahman of the judge, "He's abusing his chair and he needs to be out of office. He's abusing it." The judge had no comment.
The judge now in charge of the case, Lou Olivera, has no problem with the beads, or, one would presume, with any other religious symbols worn around the neck or on the person. As UNC professor of government Michael Crowell points out, if a party's dress seems to represent religious beliefs and the court is concerned about it, the court should inquire further. If the dress "is not clearly disruptive, it should be allowed."
Mr. Rahman is reported to be considering legal action. More here from the Fayetteville Observer (online).