Academic Papers: All

“Sorcerer” Killings in Banyuwangi: A Re-Examination of State Responsibility for Violence

This article interrogates the operation of an assumption of state responsibility frequently found in current scholarship on violence in Indonesia. There has recently been “an up surge of interest in violence in Indonesia by the media, by NGOs, and by the academic world”. Important contributions have been made by anumber of conference panels; a special issue of the Asian Journal of Social Scienc(2006); and five recent volumes edited by Anderson (2001a), Wessel and Wimho ¨fer (2001), Colombijn and Lindblad (2002a), Hu¨sken and de Jonge (2002a), and Coppel (2005). Some of the new studies – for example, de Jonge (2002) – clearly elucidate local causes of violence and the role the state has played in attenuating this violence. Nevertheless, at times the recent literature is characterised by an assumption of the state’s responsibility for violence, and a corresponding sense that members of society are its innocent victims. This assumption operates in the discussion of other historical eras,but is most commonly presented in relation to the “New Order” regime (c.1966–98) of President Soeharto. One can find reference to “[t]he massive scale of state violence”(Wessel, 2001b, pp. 70–71) during this era, with the New Order being characterised as “among the most repressive and violent states of the twentieth century” (Barker, 2006,p. 203) or simply as a “state of violence” (Henk Schulte Nordholt, cited in Hu¨sken and de Jonge, 2002b, p. 4). The new literature appears to be driven by a well-meaning and vigilant concern not to let states off the hook. But from my perspective, two problems characterise the notion of state responsibility for violence as it is proposed in the new literature. These are addressed, respectively, in this article’s two parts.
Read full article here

The killings of alleged sorcerers in south Malang: Conspiracy, ninjas, or ‘community justice’?

Around the 1999-2000 Ramadan fasting month, a series of brutal attacks and killings occurred in the villages in the southern part of the Malang regency. These attacks were a continuation of the killing of alleged sorcerers in East Java – a phenomenon that has claimed hundreds of lives since 1998. This chapter argues that the attacks in South Malang were instances of ‘community justice’, in which local communities banded together to kill supposed sorcerers.

Read full article here

The War of Lions: Witch-Hunts, Occult Idioms and Post-Socialism in Northern Mozambique

The year is 2002, the place Muidumbe, northerly cradle of the Mozambican Liberation Struggle. Lions devouring people, and people lynching sorcerers suspected of magically fabricating lions, unleash a crisis that soon assumes a political dimension. Widespread rumours accuse the local post-socialist elite of manipulating a group of lion-men and engaging in organ trafficking with an international alliance of vampires. Disempowered  youth lynchers stage a paradoxical uprising. This article details the unfolding of this crisisover a year, and discusses its broader implications. Are contemporary sorcery crises adeflected effect of ‘millennial capitalism’? To what extent can occult rumours be interpreted as idioms that express political agency in metaphors? What is the role of the media and of cultural brokers in propagating rumours and crystallising collective anxieties inrecognisable forms? How is one to understand the rationality, if any, of witch-hunts? Focusing on the forms and the effects of violence, a symptomatic reading of witch-hunts reveals their linkages with Frelimo’s project of ‘total politicisation’. Finally, the article discusses a contradiction inherent in sorcery scholarship, hovering between repeating the Enlightenment’s baptismal naming of witchcraft as superstition and producing populist representations of subaltern consciousness dismissive of dramatic experiences of violence

 

Read the full article here

Sorcerers and Folkhealers: Africans and the Inquisition in Portugal (1680-1800)

This study is based on a survey of twenty-seven Portuguese Inquisition processes (trials) concluded against Luso-Africans in continental Portugal between 1690 and1784. All were mágicos— persons accused of magical crimes. Some were superstitious folk healers (curandei-ros or saludadores) while others were alleged to have committed different magical infractions. Together, these twenty-seven individuals account for just 6.13 percent of the total number of persons (four-hundred forty) tried for magical crimes by the Portuguese Holy Office be-tween 1679 and 1802. These cases represent the only Luso-Africans found to have been tried for magical crimes in Portugal during this period.

Read full article here

Sorcery and Contemporary Warfare in Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands

In the eastern districts of the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea, sorcery-related violence is mainly an inter-community affair. Sorcery beliefs in various parts of the Eastern Highlands hold that sorcery is an exclusively male domain. Furthermore, violent retribution for deaths attributed to sorcery in the Eastern Highlands is primarily directed against other communities, and not against individuals suspected of conducting sorcery. Sorcery-related violence thus has the propensity to quickly spiral out of control, escalating to large-scale inter-community warfare often causing further casualties. This state of affairs contrasts starkly with recent media portrayals of witchcraft-related killings in Papua New Guinea in which angry mobs single out usually defenceless (and often female) individual victims and torture them to death. 

Request full article here

Sorcery and the Moral Economy of Agency: an ethnographic account

An ethnographic account of sorcery accusation, violence, and subsequent community discussion pro-vides a basis to explore the ‘moral economy of agency’that shapes expressions and interpretations of  personhood in Vanuatu. Mediated historically by transforming social, political, and economic circum-stances, agency is demonstrated to be patterned according to culturally specific ontological and moralschemes. Key local categories of embodied personhood – including
 man ples (man place), man wan (man one), and jelus (jealousy) – are examined to elucidate two relationally entwined analytic categories, referred to as ‘distributive’ and ‘possessive’ agency. Such categories, it is argued, fundamentally shape expressions and interpretations of moral being and doing, including by providing a basis for identifying morally abject expressions of personhood. Taking seriously the important role of spiritual agency within such moral economies, this paper provides new ethnographically grounded insights into the ways in which communities and individuals negotiate moral being within transforming contexts of economic and sacred power.
Read full article here

(2015), “Children accused of witchcraft in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): between structural and symbolic violence”

In this paper Quaretta considers the phenomenon of “child-witches” (enfants-sorciers) in Lubumbashi (Katanga, DRC), which seems to be the result of the combination of two socio-cultural factors: the structural violence present in everyday family life where accusations of witchcraft against children can occur, and the symbolic violence exerted on street children, on whom the label “child witch” is often directed. On the one hand, witchcraft accusations are the consequence of increasing structural violence to which children are subjected in the sphere of family living conditions; on the other hand, the transgression of social norms by the sheges provokes the inhabitants of Lubumbashi to identify the street children with witchcraft. The data presented in this document comes mostly from socio-anthropological fieldwork carried out in Katanga between 2010 and 2012. The most significant sources of information in the research survey were the Salesian centres for street children, Bakanja Ville and Bakanja Centre, one revivalist church, and the Congolese families he visited on a regular basis.

Read full article here

Violence and witchcraft accusations against older people in Central and Western Africa: toward a new status for the older individuals?

Read full article here

 

Cannibal-witches, zombies and the making of an African modernity in the Cameroon Grassfields

Drawing on analogies between the experiences/practices of the slave-trade and of forced labor (as embodied – and transmitted – social memory), the first part of the paper argues that witchcraft discourse in postcolonial Cameroon Grassfields are a part of modernity and about modernity. This top down approach which uses modernity as an explanatory gloss is complemented in the second part of the paper with one which focuses on local concerns and attempts to understand witchcraft discourse as an arena of conflicting conceptualizations of ‘personhood’, situating both in the broader (regional) context of a ‘Grassfields ethos’ of production, consumption and exchange.

Read full article here

Egress and Regress: Pentecostal Precursors and Parallels in Northern Mozambique

Based on fieldwork among the Makhuwa of northern Mozambique, this essay explores how non-Pentecostal models of transformation shape a people’s manner of relating to Pentecostalism. Radical change has long been constitutive of Makhuwa history and subjectivity. Yet Makhuwa patterns of change, commonly conceived in terms of movement, entail regress as much as egress – circular mobilities that disrupt linear teleologies. State administrators and Pentecostal missionaries attempt to reform local inhabitants by, respectively, ‘sedentarising’ and ‘converting’ them. Deploying their historical proclivity towards mobility, those among whom I worked appear simultaneously eager to partake in resettlement schemes and reluctant to remain settled by them. I argue that their ambivalence towards Pentecostal churches and teachings, in particular, challenges two prevailing assumptions within anthropological studies of Christianity: that discontinuity is definitive, and that it is exceptional to Pentecostalism.

Read full article here