The Modernity of Witchcraft
To many Westerners, the disappearance of African traditions of witchcraft might seem inevitable wuth continued modernization. In The Modernity of Witchcraft, Peter Geschieres uses his own experiences among the Maka and in other parts of eastern and southern Cameroon, as well as other anthropological research, to argue that contemporary ideas and practices of witchcraft are more a response to modern exigencies than a lingering cultural custom. The prevalence of witchcraft, especially in African politics and entrepreneurship, demonstrates the unlikely balance it has achieved with the forces of modernity. Geshiere explores why modern techniques and commodities, usually of Western Provenance, have become central in rumors of the occult.
Magical Interpretations Material Realities
'Magical Interpretations, Material Realities brings together many of today's best scholars of contemporary Africa. The theme of "witchcraft" has long been associated with exoticizing portraits of a "traditional" Africa, but this volume takes the question of occult as a point of entry into the moral politics of some very modern African realities.' - James Ferguson, University of California, USA 'These essays bear eloquent testimony to the ongoing presence and power of the occult imaginary, and of the intimate connection between global capitalism and local cosmology, in postcolonial Africa. A major contribution to scholarship that aims to rework the divide between modernity and tradition.' - Charles Piot, Duke University, USA This volume sets out recent thinking on witchcraft in Africa, paying particular attention to variations in meanings and practices. It examines the way different people in different contexts are making sense of what 'witchcraft' is and what it might mean. Using recent ethnographic materials from across the continent, the volume explores how witchcraft articulates with particular modern settings for example: the State in Cameroon; Pentecostalism in Malawi; the university system in Nigeria and the IMF in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. The editors provide a timely overview and reconsideration of long-standing anthropological debates about 'African witchcraft', while simultaneously raising broader concerns about the theories of the western social sciences.
Modernity and Its Malcontents
What role does ritual play in the everyday lives of modern Africans? How are so-called "traditional" cultural forms deployed by people seeking empowerment in a world where "modernity" has failed to deliver on its promises? Some of the essays in Modernity and Its Malcontents address familiar anthropological issues—like witchcraft, myth, and the politics of reproduction—but treat them in fresh ways, situating them amidst the polyphonies of contemporary Africa. Others explore distinctly nontraditional subjects—among them the Nigerian popular press and soul-eating in Niger—in such a way as to confront the conceptual limits of Western social science. Together they demonstrate how ritual may be powerfuly mobilized in the making of history, present, and future. Addressing challenges posed by contemporary African realities, the authors subject such concepts as modernity, ritual, power, and history to renewed critical scrutiny. Writing about a variety of phenomena, they are united by a wish to preserve the diversity and historical specificity of local signs and practices, voices and perspectives. Their work makes a substantial and original contribution toward the historical anthropology of Africa. The contributors, all from the Africanist circle at the University of Chicago, are Adeline Masquelier, Deborah Kaspin, J. Lorand Matory, Ralph A. Austen, Andrew Apter, Misty L. Bastian, Mark Auslander, and Pamela G. Schmoll.
Witchcraft Intimacy and Trust
In Dante’s Inferno, the lowest circle of Hell is reserved for traitors, those who betrayed their closest companions. In a wide range of literatures and mythologies such intimate aggression is a source of ultimate terror, and in Witchcraft, Intimacy, and Trust, Peter Geschiere masterfully sketches it as a central ember at the core of human relationships, one brutally revealed in the practice of witchcraft. Examining witchcraft in its variety of forms throughout the globe, he shows how this often misunderstood practice is deeply structured by intimacy and the powers it affords. In doing so, he offers not only a comprehensive look at contemporary witchcraft but also a fresh—if troubling—new way to think about intimacy itself. Geschiere begins in the forests of southeast Cameroon with the Maka, who fear “witchcraft of the house” above all else. Drawing a variety of local conceptions of intimacy into a global arc, he tracks notions of the home and family—and witchcraft’s transgression of them—throughout Africa, Europe, Brazil, and Oceania, showing that witchcraft provides powerful ways of addressing issues that are crucial to social relationships. Indeed, by uncovering the link between intimacy and witchcraft in so many parts of the world, he paints a provocative picture of human sociality that scrutinizes some of the most prevalent views held by contemporary social science. One of the few books to situate witchcraft in a global context, Witchcraft, Intimacy, and Trust is at once a theoretical tour de force and an empirically rich and lucid take on a difficult-to-understand spiritual practice and the private spaces throughout the world it so greatly affects.
Discourses of the Vanishing
Japan today is haunted by the ghosts its spectacular modernity has generated. Deep anxieties about the potential loss of national identity and continuity disturb many in Japan, despite widespread insistence that it has remained culturally intact. In this provocative conjoining of ethnography, history, and cultural criticism, Marilyn Ivy discloses these anxieties—and the attempts to contain them—as she tracks what she calls the vanishing: marginalized events, sites, and cultural practices suspended at moments of impending disappearance. Ivy shows how a fascination with cultural margins accompanied the emergence of Japan as a modern nation-state. This fascination culminated in the early twentieth-century establishment of Japanese folklore studies and its attempts to record the spectral, sometimes violent, narratives of those margins. She then traces the obsession with the vanishing through a range of contemporary reconfigurations: efforts by remote communities to promote themselves as nostalgic sites of authenticity, storytelling practices as signs of premodern presence, mass travel campaigns, recallings of the dead by blind mediums, and itinerant, kabuki-inspired populist theater.
Naming the Witch
Naming the Witch explores the recent series of witchcraft accusations and killings in East Java, which spread as the Suharto regime slipped into crisis and then fell. After many years of ethnographic work focusing on the origins and nature of violence in Indonesia, Siegel came to the conclusion that previous anthropological explanations of witchcraft and magic, mostly based on sociological conceptions but also including the work of E.E. Evans-Pritchard and Claude Lévi-Strauss, were simply inadequate to the task of providing a full understanding of the phenomena associated with sorcery, and particularly with the ideas of power connected with it. Previous explanations have tended to see witchcraft in simple opposition to modernism and modernity (enchantment vs. disenchantment). The author sees witchcraft as an effect of culture, when the latter is incapable of dealing with accident, death, and the fear of the disintegration of social and political relations. He shows how and why modernization and witchcraft can often be companions, as people strive to name what has hitherto been unnameable.
Witchcraft and Colonial Rule in Kenya 1900 1955
Focusing on colonial Kenya, this book shows how conflicts between state authorities and Africans over witchcraft-related crimes provided an important space in which the meanings of justice, law and order in the empire were debated. Katherine Luongo discusses the emergence of imperial networks of knowledge about witchcraft. She then demonstrates how colonial concerns about witchcraft produced an elaborate body of jurisprudence about capital crimes. The book analyzes the legal wrangling that produced the Witchcraft Ordinances in the 1910s, the birth of an anthro-administrative complex surrounding witchcraft in the 1920s, the hotly contested Wakamba Witch Trials of the 1930s, the explosive growth of legal opinion on witch-murder in the 1940s, and the unprecedented state-sponsored cleansings of witches and Mau Mau adherents during the 1950s. A work of anthropological history, this book develops an ethnography of Kamba witchcraft or uoi.
Witchcraft Violence and Democracy in South Africa
Large numbers of people in Soweto & other parts of South Africa live in fear of witchcraft, presenting complex & unique problems for the government. Adam Ashforth explores the challenge of occult violence & the spiritual insecurity that it engenders to democratic rule in South Africa.
The Perils of Belonging
Despite being told that we now live in a cosmopolitan world, more and more people have begun to assert their identities in ways that are deeply rooted in the local. These claims of autochthony—meaning “born from the soil”—seek to establish an irrefutable, primordial right to belong and are often employed in politically charged attempts to exclude outsiders. In The Perils of Belonging, Peter Geschiere traces the concept of autochthony back to the classical period and incisively explores the idea in two very different contexts: Cameroon and the Netherlands. In both countries, the momentous economic and political changes following the end of the cold war fostered anxiety over migration. For Cameroonians, the question of who belongs where rises to the fore in political struggles between different tribes, while the Dutch invoke autochthony in fierce debates over the integration of immigrants. This fascinating comparative perspective allows Geschiere to examine the emotional appeal of autochthony—as well as its dubious historical basis—and to shed light on a range of important issues, such as multiculturalism, national citizenship, and migration.
Magic and Modernity
This is the first book to explore comparatively how magic—usually portrayed as the antithesis of the modern—is also at home in modernity.