Academic Papers: Human Rights

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. 

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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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(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.

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

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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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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.

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Media Analysis of Albino Killings inTanzania: A Social Work and HumanRights Perspective

Murders of people with albinism are a recently emerging human rights issue in Africa, particularly Tanzania. Thus far, public debates about albino killings inTanzania and other African countries have been dominated by media reports rather than academic writing. This paper presents the findings of a content analysis of Swahili and English Tanzanian media reports published between 2008 and 2011 onalbinism and albino murders in Tanzania, and the diverse activities that haveunfolded in response to these attacks. Using a human rights framework, the articleexplores these responses from a social work perspective. It finds that interventions are often framed with reference to African conceptions of humanness. Theseconceptions are found to be compatible with notions of human rights as relational,in which the various rights and responsibilities of different members of society areseen as interconnected. In practice however, some interventions have resulted intrade-offs between competing rights, causing further harm to victims and their  families. To become sustainable therefore, interventions should aim to support allthe human rights necessary for the well-being of Africans with albinism, their  families and communities. Further research to this effect is recommended.

 

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Witchcraft and transnational social spaces: witchcraft violence, reconciliation and development in South Africa’s transition process

The strange collusion between occult belief systems and different trans-national social networks, embedded in specific transformations of local and global modes of production, results in unique but reinforcing modifications of witchcraft belief, its underlying structures and its impact on the process of democratisation. The amazing range of possible results has been indicated by the analysis of two outstanding examples of witchcraft violence in South Africa in times of transition: in the former homelands of Venda and Lebowa, seemingly 
‘traditional’ elements of witchcraft accusations, mediated by a mis
guided struggle for liberation, stimulated the sympathetic attention of stakeholders beyond the local setting. On the other hand, the occult base of violence in the Transkei became so blurred by involvement 
of ‘modern’ elements of globalised markets of vio
lence that it was hardly visible any more, although undercover its repressive effects were still very much alive. These different roots of witchcraft violence had serious repercussions on conflict resolution and genuine reconciliation, the base for any sustainable democratisation and development.
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Albinos’ Plight: Will Legal Methods be Powerful Enough To Eradicate Albinos’ Scourge?

In Tanzania, persons with albinism commonly known as albinos, continue to be less valued, rejected, attacked and killed for ritual purposes. In response, the police force has been arresting witchdoctors as part of a campaign against albinos’ ritual killings. Albinos are believed to possess magical powers, source of misfortunes but able make people prosperous economically and socially.  Eradication of witchcraft beliefs for long had been a concern of Africans throughout East and Central Africa. Despite harmful impact of witchcraft and witchdoctors activities, use of legal methods alone to eliminate the beliefs and practices have never been successful. Combination of legal methods and properly designed awareness creation programmes can be effective measures in  fighting against negative beliefs and attitudes towards albinos leading to their brutal attacks and killings.

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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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