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Witchcraft & Sorcery F13 370

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Julie Jenkins

on 31 October 2017

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Transcript of Witchcraft & Sorcery F13 370

Hocus Pocus: Witchcraft & Sorcery
Is 'witchcraft' a form of 'religion'?
What is Witchcraft & Sorcery?
Euro-American idea rooted in the Witch-craze of Medieval Europe
Church reformers identified certain people as 'witches' -- meaning they were adversaries of the Church
--pact with the Devil
inversion of what was holy and civilized
--fly at night to nocturnal, orgy filled meetings
--sacrifices of infants
but this is a historical construction
--charged words and powerful when labelling certain actions negatively
--frames the way people interpret their world and shapes the way they behave in it.
witchcraft - an inherent quality of a person, with a psychic action
sorcery- a ritual activity of manipulating objects for an end
--problem of translation:
sometimes these categories aren't as clear cut in local context
French Sorcellerie refers to both activities
Geschiere argues that we should use an umbrella term, like "occult forces" to
--capture a wider range of phenomenon
-- recognize both positive and negative actions associated with term
Does 'occult forces' really help?
Why do we label certain practices as 'witchcraft'? Why do we assume the terms means a dangerous, harmful, & evil activity?
--localized ideas about good/evil, theory of causation
--means to make sense of the world and act within it (divination, healing)
--"Coherent ideology for daily living" (Fortes 1953)
Why have practices and beliefs around witchcraft not died out?
"there is need for massive public education and enlightenment in Africa to teach Africans that witchcraft is superstition and that people engage in witchcraft accusations out of fear and ignorance."
--a part of modernity as "discourses, beliefs, and practices of witchcraft are manifestations of real social, political, and economic conditions"
What are some ways in which we can understand 'witchcraft'?
E.P. Pritchard & the Azande
1920s-30s

--mangu is a substance found in the body (inherited)
--distinct from ngua (learnt)

activated by greed or envy
--although often an unconscious act
rational way of explaining misfortunes
through divination techniques
Structural Functionalists--

--'witchcraft' understood as not empirically real, but that accusations themselves 'do' something
If you are experiencing a misfortune, how do you know if you are a victim of mangu or the ritual actions that need to be taken?
--accusations appear within the context of tension in social relations
--accused can take ritual actions to stop mangu from becoming active
--re-inforce moral standards
Middleton & Marwick-
"Social Strain Gauge"
--rapidly changing circumstances put stress on social relations
--leads to an increase in accusations
prior to this, conceptualized as actions of healing, protection, cursing and harming people
What do anthropologists means when we use the term?
Middleton-1960s
--universal distinction between witchcraft & sorcery
--all definitions are going to be historically & culturally specific
--perhaps most useful to use the localized term, rather than translate
--question embedded with social-evolutionary bias
"neither a return to 'traditional' practices nor a sign of backwardness or lack of progress; they are instead thoroughly modern manifestations of uncertainties, moral disquiet and unequal rewards and aspirations in the contemporary moment" (Moore)
'conservative' aspects of accusations
--express tension and conflict
--provide a way to ventilate and resolve
Nadel- "pressure safety valve"
--but accusations can lead to fragmentation, rather than mediation
--ambivalent
--not locked in rigid moral systems
--can be re-invented for new situations

practices, accusations, discourses engaged with processes of "modernity"--
--experience of inequality (leveling, accumulation)
--illicit accumulation
--illicit power

According to Geschiere, is witchcraft "dying" out with the expansion of capitalism and "modernity" in Cameroon? Is it "traditional" obstacle to development?
How do the Taita understand witchcraft (BusaBi)?
What is majini? How does it relate to migration and urban employment?
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