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Magic and Witchcraft: Implications for Democratization and Poverty-Alleviating Aid in Africa

Kohnert, Dirk (1996): Magic and Witchcraft: Implications for Democratization and Poverty-Alleviating Aid in Africa. Published in: World Development , Vol. 24, No. 8 (1 September 1996): 1347 -1355.

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Abstract

The belief in occult forces is still deeply rooted in many African societies, regardless of education, religion, and social class of the people concerned. According to many Africans its incidence is even increasing due to social stress and strain caused (among others) by the process of modernization. Most often magic and witchcraft accusations work to the disadvantage of the poor and deprived, but under particular circumstances they become a means of the poor in the struggle against oppression by establishing "cults of counter-violence." Magic and witchcraft beliefs have increasingly been instrumentalized for political purposes. Apparently they can be used to support any kind of political system, whether despotic or democratic. The belief in occult forces has serious implications for development cooperation. Development projects, which constitute arenas of strategic groups in their struggle for power and control over project resources, are likely to add further social stress to an already endangered precarious balance of power, causing witchcraft accusations to flourish. In addition, witchcraft accusations may serve as indicators of hidden social conflicts which are difficult to detect by other methods.

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