I worry about contagious magic, as it applies to genocide studies and dramaturgy in general. From Tom Sawyer:


Then he scraped away the dirt, and exposed a pine shingle. He took it up and disclosed a shapely little treasure-house whose bottom and sides were of shingles. In it lay a marble. Tom’s astonishment was boundless ! He scratched his head with a perplexed air, and said:

“Well, that beats anything!”

Then he tossed the marble away pettishly, and stood cogitating. The truth was, that a superstition of his had failed, here, which he and all his comrades had always looked upon as infallible. If you buried a marble with certain necessary incantations, and left it alone a fortnight, and then opened the place with the incantation he had just used, you would find that all the marbles you had ever lost had gathered themselves together there, meantime, no matter how widely they had been separated. But now, this thing had actually and unquestionably failed. Tom’s whole structure of faith was shaken to its foundations. He had many a time heard of this thing succeeding but never of its failing before. It did not occur to him that he had tried it several times before, himself, but could never find the hiding-places afterward. He puzzled over the matter some time, and finally decided that some witch had interfered and broken the charm. He thought he would satisfy himself on that point; so he searched around till he found a small sandy spot with a little funnel-shaped depression in it. He laid himself down and put his mouth close to this depression and called –

“Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know! Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know!”

The sand began to work, and presently a small black bug appeared for a second and then darted under again in a fright.

“He dasn’t tell! So it WAS a witch that done it. I just knowed it.”


In the first case, a marble is lost to attract lost marbles – on the theory that like controls like. In this vein, we can be inclined to throw trauma at trauma, to draw it down or decide it or own it. Without our escalated and administered sense of outrage and horror, we (perversely) feel at the mercy of outrage and horror; then we preconceive the horror, so when it hits it fits inside of what we’re already capable of; we recognize as real that trauma which is obedient in some way to our own.


This manifestly doesn’t work, except by “luck.” And when we can’t find the heart of the trauma (the parameters of genocide, it’s causes in a description), we start asking the doodlebug – namely, approaching the world as if scientifically, while actually providing answers on the basis of our own reasoning, disregarding the logic or style inherent in things themselves (which may be completely indifferent to our regard).


This leads to the Double Genocide theory, for example – both sides did wrong; the victim in some way deserved it; the genocide on the one hand can be interpreted as human in the classical, symmetrical sense because of the genocide on the other (genocide as a concept is not cancer then, not something organic, in us, that overcomes us – it is more muscular, traded weights). This can be used as an opening to negationism (the genocides cancel each other out). When we talk to survivors and perpetrators we sometimes use doodlebug readings, and are even frustrated with the accounts when they don’t conform to deeply held patterns of balance, and cause-and-effect.

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