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Witchcraft in Post-colonial Africa

Beliefs, techniques and containment strategies

Khaukanani Mavhungu

Publication Year: 2012

This is a comparative ethnographic study of witchcraft and associated violence between the kingdoms of Kom and Venda in Cameroon and South Africa respectively. The book shows why despite its prevalence in both societies, witchcraft does not lead to open violence in Kom, while such large-scale violence is commonplace in Venda. It reveals that this difference can be explained by factors such as the variations in local ideas on witches, differences in the role of traditional authorities, and various state interventions on witchcraft matters. The book demonstrates, through a rich collection of detailed cases, that contrary to anthropological theory that views witchcraft as a mechanism for the expression and resolution of social tensions and conflicts, witchcraft may at times become a disturbance of amicable social relations. Witchcraft accusations may occur in a context where strained social relations have not preceded them. The knowledge and experience that people have about witchcraft is sufficient to trigger an accusation and a violent reaction. Different forms of witchcraft account for variations in witchcraft attributions and accusations. This comparison provides a valuable contribution to ongoing witchcraft policy discourse amid widespread citizen anxiety over witchcraft, and the increasing call on the post-colonial state to intervene and protect its citizens against occult aggression.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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p. 2-2

Copyright Page

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p. 3-3


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pp. 4-5

Table of Contents

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pp. iii-iv

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pp. v-9

There is an African proverb which reads: A bundle cannot be fastened with one hand. That is, no one is completely self-sufficient. One constantly needs the support of another for one to succeed in life. My people compel...

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pp. vii-viii

The core of Mavhungu’s book is a spirited rejoinder to the argument that witchcraft killings in post-apartheid South Africa are the result of the global neo-liberal order and its local discontents. Mavhungu rejects the view that these...

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pp. ix-xii

The genesis of this book can be traced back to the tragic incident of 02 October 1990, which divided my village and eventually robbed it of some of its young men and women. While at school on that day, we learnt of the sad...

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Chapter One: Witchcraft Discourse in Post-Colonial Africa

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pp. 1-20

It continues to confound social scientists, policy practitioners and decision-makers that humanity has progressed into the twenty first century without the belief in witchcraft diminishing. In Africa, the “belief in witchcraft...

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Chapter Two: Witches of Venda and Kom

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pp. 21-49

Although the Kom and the Muvenda live in the African continent in localities that are geographically apart, they both exist in worlds that are engulfed with constant fear of witchcraft. During fieldwork in both Kom and...

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Chapter Three: Containment of Witchcraft at Family and Community Levels

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pp. 51-79

Witchcraft containment is part of the daily efforts in Kom and Venda to control and domesticate the actions of other people. The containment has always taken the form of protection at the family and community...

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Chapter Four: Explaining Witchcraft Violence in Venda, Limpopo Province

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pp. 81-107

Levels and types of belief in witches vary in time within African societies. At some points in time people believe that witches are rife and more aggressive within their communities; while at other points they believe that...

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Chapter Five: Policy Options for Post-Colonial South Africa

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pp. 109-120

The preceding chapters are concerned with the broader context within which this research was undertaken: the theoretical perspectives and literature on witchcraft; the comparison of witchcraft beliefs...


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pp. 121-132

Back Cover

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p. 150-150

E-ISBN-13: 9789956728329
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956728374

Page Count: 148
Publication Year: 2012