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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