Witchcraft and the Polis

Nelson Tebbe

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.

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Date posted: March 22, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Tebbe, Nelson, Witchcraft and the Polis. Journal of Religion, Vol. 86, p. 710, 2006; St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-0042. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=892785

Contact Information

Nelson Tebbe (Contact Author)
Brooklyn Law School ( email )
250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States
718.780.7960 (Phone)

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