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Kuru, AIDS, and Witchcraft

Reconfiguring Culpability in Melanesia and Africa

Isak Niehaus

This article examines the significance of witchcraft accusations during the South African AIDS epidemic. In search of broader intercontextual understanding, I compare experiences of AIDS in Bushbuck ridge, where I have done fieldwork, with anthropological studies of kuru, a transmissible degenerative disease, in Papua New Guinea. Whereas scientists blamed the spread of kuru on the practice of cannibalism, those who were affected attributed it to sorcery. These dynamics resonate with the encounters between health workers and host populations during the AIDS epidemic in Bushbuckridge. Health propaganda attributed the rapid transmission of HIV to sexual promiscuity. In response, sufferers and their kin invoked witchcraft, shifting blame onto outsiders and reinforcing the relations that medical labeling threatened to disrupt. The comparison enables us to see witchcraft accusations as a means of reconfiguring culpability, cutting certain networks, and strengthening other existing configurations.

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Diana Espírito Santo

by witchcraft: the annihilation of self. There is no self to be worthy of salvation by overcoming sin because there is no ‘fixed’ self from the outset. The telos is not perfection; instead, it is power—the power to decide and to act on one’s destiny

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Sophie Nakueira

Nakivale, the oldest refugee camp in Uganda, hosts refugees fleeing various forms of political unrest from several African countries. Uganda’s humanitarian framework makes it an attractive place for refugees. Little is known about the role that humanitarian policies play in shaping interactions between different actors or the politics of accusation that emerges within this settlement. In a context in which the status of a refugee can confer preferential access to scarce resources, different refugee communities struggle to define themselves, their neighbours and kin in terms of the camp’s humanitarian language. Describing the everyday anxieties that define life in the camp, this article shows how accusations become powerful resources that refugees draw upon to meet the criteria for resettlement to a third country, but also how these forms of humanitarian assistance rely on processes of exclusion that create endemic accusations of corruption, criminality and even witchcraft.

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Johan Wedel

This article focuses on efforts to overcome the divide between state legality and local practices. It explores a pragmatic effort to deal with witchcraft accusations and occult-related violence in customary courts among the Miskitu people in Eastern Nicaragua, taking into account both indigenous notions of justice and cosmology, and the laws of the state. In this model, a community court (elected by the community inhabitants and supported by a council of elders), watchmen known as ‘voluntary police’ and a ‘judicial facilitator’ play intermediary roles. Witchcraft is understood and addressed in relation to Miskitu cultural perceptions and notions of illness afflictions, and disputes are settled through negotiations involving divination, healing, signing a legally binding ‘peace’ contract, a fine, and giving protection to alleged witches. This decreases tensions and the risk of vigilante justice is reduced. The focus is on settling disputes, conciliation and recreating harmony instead of retribution.

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“SpiritS Follow the words”

Stories as Spirit Traces among the Khmu of Northern Laos

Rosalie Stolz

among them. This spirit could be called a witch spirit, for it takes possession of human souls, without their awareness, to feed on the inner organs of another human—a phenomenon anthropologically known as witchcraft but locally not given a name of its

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Nature, Science and Witchcraft

Interview with Fay Weldon

Joanna Zylinska and Fay Weldon

JZ: I realise that quoting excerpts from other people's essays on your work may seem ironic, as it creates a danger of 'monumentalising' the author and letting others speak 'in your name'. Nevertheless, I would like to take the risk of beginning with the words of Lorna Sage. In her preface to The Life and Loves of a She-Develop Lorna Sage writes: 'Fay's lack of respect for "nature" . . . is one of her greatest strengths: she knows it's fetish and attacks it with its own weapons'. I wonder, could you comment a little on your relation to nature?

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Aaron Nugua

Court trials and subsequent executions in 1692 of nineteen accused witches in Salem are important events in America’s history that are often studied. Today, ‘Witch City’ draws over sixty thousand visitors at Hallowe’en. While members of the Pagan/Wiccan community honour the accused, well known writers – Arthur Miller and Elie Weisel – publicly acknowledge the Salem witch trials as a lesson. ‘Agents of memory’ imagine they have individual and collective affinities with Salem, the place, its people, and the historical event. These agents develop different explanations for why these events occurred and see in them disparate meanings, thereby directing, shaping and influencing the ways in which the Salem witch trials are remembered.

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David Hawkes

Abstract

The twenty-first century has witnessed the rise to power of images in every aspect of human endeavour. Speculative financial derivatives have achieved a predominant place in the economy, spin and perception rule the political sphere, and technological media ensure that we spend our lives surrounded by images of all kinds. Reading the works of Shakespeare reveals the roots of this process in the early modern period, when the iconoclasm of the Reformation, popular protests against usury, and the campaign against ritual magic combined to provide an ethically based popular resistance to the power of signs.

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The Vindication of Chaka Zulu

Retreat into the Enchantment of the Past

C. Bawa Yamba

The article deals with two competing explanations advanced by local people in a Zambian village to make sense of the presence of man-eating crocodiles in the area. One faction explains the events in rational terms, while the other sees them as the work of witches, as a result of which they demand the return of a witchfinder, whose activities a decade ago had left 16 people dead. The article shows how the competing explanations are reflections of political rivalry between the local chieftainess and her detractors, who perceive her attempts to modernize the area as a way to line her own pocket. The rationalized versus enchanted definitions of events form the point of departure for examining some of the underlying premises of the extended-case method, namely, those of perceiving social phenomena as constituting an interrelated whole, and for determining when to close the flow of events for analysis.

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Introduction

Cross-Cultural Articulations of War Magic and Warrior Religion

D. S. Farrer

Previous anthropology emphasized symbolic incantations at the expense of the embodied practice of magic. Foregrounding embodiment and performance in war magic and warrior religion collapses the mind-body dualism of magic versus rationality, instead highlighting social action, innovation, and the revitalization of tradition, as tempered historically by colonial and post-colonial trajectories in societies undergoing rapid social transformation. Religion and magic are re-evaluated from the perspective of the practitioner's and the victim's embodiment in their experiential life-worlds via articles discussing Chinese exorcists, Javanese spirit siblings, Sumatran black magic, Tamil Tiger suicide bombers, Chamorro spiritual re-enchantment, tantric Buddhist war magic, and Yanomami dark shamans. Central themes include violence and healing, accomplished through ritual and performance, to unleash and/or control the power of gods, demons, ghosts and the dead.