Witchcraft and the Polis
Brooklyn Law School
Journal of Religion, Vol. 86, p. 710, 2006
St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-0042
Witchcraft beliefs and practices are widespread in contemporary Africa. In this short essay, which is forthcoming in the University of Chicago's Journal of Religion, I review an important new ethnography concerning occult beliefs in Soweto, a large urban township on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Although witch hunts themselves are relatively rare, fear of the occult pervades everyday life. Citizens' complaints of injustice at the hands of witches have implications for democratic governance. How ought a constitutional democracy respond to their demands for protection? After describing two ideal-typical responses, I argue that the government has recently moved in the direction of an approach that calls for regulating witchcraft itself - a policy that addresses certain problems but also carries significant danger for the new democracy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 3Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 22, 2006
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