Academic Papers: Health

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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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Papua New Guinea: Overview Presentation. Sorcery and Witchcraft Accusations: Developing a National Response to Overcome the Violence.

This paper draws on research that includes the torture and ill treatment of the accused sorcerers and witches. Richard Eves includes details of his fieldwork and draws on evidence from New Ireland.

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Magic and Witchcraft Implications for Democratisation and Poverty-Alleviating Aid in Africa

The belief in occult forces is still deeply rooted in many African societies, regardless of education, religion, and social class of the people concerned. According to many Africans its incidence is even increasing due to social stress and strain caused (among others) by the  process of modernization. This paper looks into how magic and witchcraft accusations work to the disadvantage of the poor and deprived, but under particular circumstances they become a means of the poor in the struggle against oppression by establishing “cults of counter-violence”.

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Albinism, Witchcraft and Superstition in East Africa

This paper looks at profuse media reports and discourse on the plight of Persons with Albinism (PWA) in East Africa in the recent times raise the question of livelihood security of a minority group. PWA constitutes a group of people that are marginalised and discriminated owing to cultural perspective of biological condition. The present study draws on the social exclusion theory to characterise the social, cultural, and economic aspects of daily life struggles among PWA in East Africa.

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Epilepsy-associated stigma in sub-Saharan Africa: The social landscape of a disease, 2005

Many studies in developed regions of the world have confirmed that stigma contributes substantially to the psychological and social burden of epilepsy. Relatively few studies of epilepsy-associated stigma have been conducted in Africa, where much of the world’s burden of epilepsy exists. In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), particularly in rural regions, close family ties, communal living situations, and traditional belief systems undoubtedly influence the expression of stigmatization. A review of the epidemiologic, anthropologic, and sociologic studies of epilepsy in SSA provides significant insights into how people with epilepsy (PWE) are per- ceived by their communities and families and how these perceptions translate into limited social and economic opportunities and possibly worsen the physical vulnerability of PWE in this region. The medical community is not exempt from the social process of stigmatization, and poor public health infrastructure and medical services undoubtedly contribute to the cycle of epilepsy-asso- ciated stigma through wide treatment gaps, poor seizure control, and high rates of seizure-related injury. In this review, we extrapolate data from existing studies of epilepsy in SSA coupled with our own experience providing epilepsy care in the region to give an overview of the social landscape of this common, devastating condition.

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An Anthropological Study of Witchcraft-related Crime in the Eastern Cape and its implications for Law Enforcement Policy and Practice, Jan 2009

This research sought to investigate the phenomenon of witchcraft-related crime in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, and its implications for law enforcement policy and practice. The primary motivation for a study such as this emerged from the need to address the lack of academic knowledge about witchcraft-related crime, especially in the Eastern Cape. The study is anthropological in focus, and is thus based on anthropological techniques of data gathering.

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Witch-hunts in South Africa – Advocacy against Human Rights Abuses Committed as a Result of Accusations of Witchcraft and Violent Witch-hunts, 2014

The vast majority of victims of accusation of witchcraft, both deceased and still living, in South Africa have been and are being denied their legal right to all of these constitutional rights. Accusations of witchcraft are not condoned under the constitutional rights to freedom of religion, belief and opinion, or expression, as incitement to propaganda for war; incitement of imminent violence; or advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, that constitutes incitement to cause harm, is not protected under South African law. Accusations of witchcraft and resulting witch-hunts constitute a series of clearly identified crimes under both international and national law.

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