Academic Papers: Human Sacrifice

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

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

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.
Read full article here

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.

See full article here

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.

See full article here

 

 

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”.

Read more here

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.

See full article here

Abuse Linked to a Belief in Spirit Possession/ Witchcraft – Practice Guidance for Social Workers, August 2012

Social workers are charged with safeguarding children. It is important to be aware of the subject of abuse linked with a belief system so that cases of such abuse can be identified at the earliest possible stage. Cases of child abuse linked to a belief in spirit possession or witchcraft are not common however they can lead to extreme physical and emotional abuse and to child deaths. The cases of Victoria Climbie, Kristy Bamu and Ikpomwosa, whose torso was recovered from the Thames, were all child deaths linked to this belief system. Therefore if you believe this issue may be present it is vital to respond as quickly as possible.

See full report here.

Voodoo, Witchcraft and Human Trafficking in Europe, Oct 2013

This paper focuses on human rights violations linked to African witchcraft which are occurring in Europe. It is organized in three sections. The first section examines threats toward alleged child-witches; the second examines the misuse of voodoo to enslave women for sexual purposes; and the third will look at the mistreatment and sexual abuse of children or women as part of witchcraft rituals.

See full paper here