Discourses on inequality: Poverty, public bads and entrenching witchcraft in post-adjustment Tanzania

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Abstract

This article examines the relation between witchcraft suppression institutions in southern Tanzania and the entrenchment of witchcraft. While practices against witches are acclaimed as a public good by grateful residents, such practices actually contribute to the institutionalization of witchcraft in the area. Witchcraft and practices to expose it and suppress it should be considered as part of a single system. Witchcraft as a system has serious social and political consequences, among these being its normativity, the expectation that misfortune and negative social relations are both cause and consequence of witchcraft. The expectation that witchcraft is an accepted fact of daily life in African communities is not confined to communities where witchcraft is an issue but extends to academic and, in particular, to anthropological discourse about Africa. Disciplinary blinds prioritizing culture may contribute to our reluctance to assess the consequences of what we see, and hence to the institutionalization of witchcraft in anthropology. Copyright © 2005 SAGE Publications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-266
Number of pages19
JournalAnthropological Theory
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Keywords

  • Inequality
  • Poverty
  • Public administration
  • Tanzania
  • Traditional healing
  • Witchcraft

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