Nemanja Radulović & Smiljana Đorđević Belić

"Discussing Disenchantment / Re-enchantment Argument: Folkloristics"

15 September 2023., at 5 p.m. CEST

Speaker's Biography:

Nemanja Radulović is professor of Folk Literature at the Department of Serbian Literature and South Slavic Literatures, Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade. His research is focused on fairy tales and belief narratives, urban folklore, history of folkloristics  and esotericism. He is a member of ESSWE board, of BNN board, a member of folklor committee of the International Committee of Slavists, and of the folk literature committee of Serbian Academy of Sciences. Edited volumes: Esotericism, Literature and Culture in Central and Eastern Europe (2018), Study of Eestern Esotericism in Central and Eastern Europe (2019; with Karolina Maria Hess).

Smiljana Đorđević Belić (b. 1978) is senior research associate at the Institute for Literature and Arts, Belgrade. Her research interests are focused on belief narratives, oral epics, theory and methodology in folkloristic research. Her publications include The Post-folk Epic Chronicle: A Genre on the Border and the Borders of the Genre (2016); The Figure of the Guslе Player: A Heroicized Biography and an Invisible Tradition (2017). She has been the co-editor (with Sonja Petrović) of Folkloristika, journal of the Association of Serbian Folklorists and the volume Disenchantment, Re-enchantment and Folklore Genres (with Nemanja Radulović). She is vice president of the Association of Serbian Folklorists, and a member of the Committee for Folkloristics of the International Committee of Slavists (ICS).


Max Weber’s disenchantment (Entzauberung) (1917) proved to be one of the most influential concepts in the 20th-century humanities and social sciences. Weber’s idea that the world has come to be viewed as a place from which magic has withdrawn (which is not identical with secularization) and in which the supernatural does not exert influence in everyday life helped in articulating new views not only in sociology but also in anthropology, ethnology, religious studies, political sciences, art history. Common to all of them is the notion of the world of modernity as the world devoid of the supernatural. Disenchantment has been criticized, to be sure, but such criticism is also part of the concept’s history in different fields. Among alternative views is the idea of re-enchantment which, contrary to Weber, claims not only that the world has never become fully disenchanted but, conversely, that it experiences strong revival of modern magical forms, not confined to some closed or alternative groups but precisely in popular culture and mass market. The polemics about disenchantment and re-enchantment has continued up to our days, more than a century after Weber’s lecture. Some important recent studies, recognized as defining contemporary fields of anthropology or religious studies, are tackling precisely the disenchantment–re-enchantment relation.

In spite of this far-reaching influence, disenchantment and re-enchantment have not exercised influence on folkloristics. That is striking since the topics folkloristics deals with overlap not only with the abovementioned fields but precisely with the questions addressed in Weberian and post-Weberian ideas. What happens with belief legends in the contemporary world, to what extent are beliefs retained and to what extent lost (or transformed)? Is contemporary legend an example of a rationalized legend where the supernatural disappears, or does this genre interact with the modern forms of supernatural belief, as expressed in New Age or popular occultism? What is the place of disenchantment anxiety at the very birth of the field in Romanticism? These are only some examples. Our aim is to see if the entire polemical dialogue between disenchantment (in various definitions) and re-enchantment can help us, as folklorists, to understand our materials, our methodological tools, and our own intellectual background better.