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African Studies of Witchcraft


In the study of witchcraft in African societies, the concern with systems of logic and thought that has long engaged anthropology and philosophy continues. More recently, there has been a focus on indigenous systems of knowledge and hermeneutical traditions. More contemporary scholars are interested in forms of interpretation, skepticism, and cultural critique that come from within local thought traditions. Scholarship is now, more than ever before, poised to counter the academic practice of maintaining distinctions in forms of thought from Western and African societies.


Austen, Ralph A. "The Moral Economy of Witchcraft: An Essay in Comparative History." In Modernity and Its Malcontents: Ritual and Power in Postcolonial Africa, edited by Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, 89–110. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Bockie, Simon. Death and the Invisible Powers: The World of Kongo Belief. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Bond, George C. "Religion, Ideology, and Property in Northern Zambia." In Studies in Power and Class in Africa, edited by Irving L. Markovitz, 70–188. London: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Bongmba, Elias. African Witchcraft and Otherness: A Philosophical and Theological Critique of Intersubjective Relations. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001.

Ciekawy, Diane. "Policing Religious Practice in Contemporary Coastal Kenya." Political and Legal Anthropology Review 20, no. 1 (1997): 62–72.

——. "Utsai as Ethical Discourse: A Critique of Power from Mijikenda in Coastal Kenya." In Dialogues of Witchcraft: Anthropological and Philosophical Exchanges, edited by George C. Bond and Diane Ciekawy, 158–189. Athens: University of Ohio Press, 1991.

——. "Witchcraft in Statecraft: Five Technologies of Power in Colonial and Postcolonial Coastal Kenya." African Studies Review 41, no. 3 (1998): 119–141.

de Boeck, Filip. "Beyond the Grave: History, Memory, and Death in Postcolonial Congo/Zaire." In Memory and the Postcolony: African Anthropology and the Critique of Power, edited by Richard Werbner, 21–57. London: Zed, 1998.

Devisch, René. Weaving the Threads of Life: The Khita Gyn-Eco-Logical Healing Cult among the Yaka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon, 1937.

Fisiy, Cyprian F., and Peter Geschiere. "Judges and Witches, or How Is the State to Deal with Witchcraft? Examples from Southeastern Cameroon." Cahiers d'études africaines 118 (1990): 135–156.

Fisiy, Cyprian F., and Michael Rowlands. "Sorcery and Law in Modern Cameroon." Culture and History 6 (1990): 63–84.

Geschiere, Peter. "Globalization and the Power of Indeterminate Meaning: Witchcraft and Spirit Cults in Africa and East Asia." Development and Change 29 (1998): 811–837.

——. The Modernity of Witchcraft: Politics and the Occult in Postcolonial Africa. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1997.

Hallen, Barry, and J. Olubi Sodipo. Knowledge, Belief, and Witchcraft: Analytic Experiments in African Philosophy. London: Ethnographica, 1986.

Heald, Suzanne. "Witches and Thieves: Deviant Motivations in Gisu Society." Man 21, no. 1 (1986): 65–78.

Jackson, Michael. Allegories of the Wilderness: Ethics and Ambiguity in Kuranko Narratives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.

Karp, Ivan, and D. A. Masolo. "Introduction." In their African Philosophy as Cultural Inquiry, 1–18. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. The Savage Mind. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1966.

Marwick, Max. "Another Modern Anti-Witchcraft Movement in East Central Africa." Africa 20, no. 2 (1950): 100–112.

Marwick, Max. Sorcery and Its Social Setting: A Study of the Northern Rhodesian Cewa. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1965.

Mbiti, John S. African Religions and Philosophy. New York: Doubleday, 1970.

Meyer, Birgit. Translating the Devil: Religion and Modernity among the Ewe in Ghana. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1999.

Mudimbe, V. Y. The Idea of Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Niehaus, Isak. Witchcraft, Power, and Politics: Exploring the Occult in the South African Lowveld. Sterling, Va.: Pluto, 2001.

Piot, Charles. Remotely Global: Village Modernity in West Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Richards, Audry. "A Modern Movement of Witch-Finders." Africa 8, no. 4 (1935): 448–461.

Shaw, Rosalind. Memories of the Slave Trade: Ritual and the Historical Imagination in Sierra Leone. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Diane Ciekawy

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Well-being to Jan Ɓukasiewicz BiographyAfrican Studies of Witchcraft - Early Anthropological Contributions, Politics Of Witchcraft: Local And Global, Philosophical Approaches To The Study Of Witchcraft