This is an extraordinary contemporary account of witchcraft and witch-hunting in the modern world. A powerful ethnographic study of witch-hunting in 1980s South Africa – a period of rapid social change – this book demonstrates the extent to which witchcraft must be seen, not as a residue of ‘traditional’ culture but as part of a complex social drama which is deeply embedded in contemporary political and economic processes. Isak Niehaus provides the context for this fascinating study of witchcraft practices. He shows how witchcraft was politicised against the backdrop of the apartheid state, the liberation struggle and the establishment of the first post-apartheid regime, which all affected conceptions of witchcraft. Niehaus demonstrates how the ANC and other political groups used witchcraft beliefs to further their own agenda. He explores the increasingly conservative role of the chiefs and the Christian church. In the process, he reveals the fraught nature of intergenerational and gender relations. The result is a truly insightful and theoretically engaged account of a much-studied but frequently misunderstood practice.
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