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.
Witchcraft and the Polis (reviewing Adam Ashforth, Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in South Africa (2005))86 J. Religion 710 (2006)
Citation InformationNelson Tebbe. "Witchcraft and the Polis (reviewing Adam Ashforth, Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in South Africa (2005))," 86 J. Religion 710 (2006)