Hiding in Plain Sight: Organizational Magic as a Contested Process of Revelation and Concealment

Jessica Inez Backsell, Stefan Schwarzkopf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article seeks to theorize organizational magic. A vast literature in organization and management studies has come to understand magic as an epiphenomenon, a by-product, an outcome of affective encounters and aesthetic experiences, and thus often synonymous with enchantment. Drawing on classical anthropological and sociological theories, the article conceptualizes magic as skilled revelation, or the performative disclosure of strategically concealed performances. This leads us to highlight the important role of audiences who contest the success of these performances. We apply this theoretical perspective to study tax-exempt hiding places for expensive art collections, so-called freeports. A freeport maintains a symbolic order around charismatic, extraordinary objects. An analysis of how magic rituals of revelation, concealment, de-mystification and transformation come together to create a freeport not only adds to our knowledge about the role of revelatory performances and of contestations in the establishment of controversial business models. Using an anthropological perspective also normalizes our understanding of magic as organizational practice as it rejects conceptual juxtapositions with managerial rationality and disenchantment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1259-1280
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: January 9, 2023.


  • Magic
  • Revelation
  • Secrecy
  • Performance
  • Charisma
  • Freeports

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