n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - A proposal towards a theory on witchcraft-related crime in post-colonial South Africa

Volume 19, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Early anthropological studies of witchcraft have long held a dominant position as part of the anthropological study of religion. Theories on witchcraft beliefs and practices have emerged from the dominant paradigms in the anthropology of religion, ranging from evolutionary perspectives to structuralist perspectives. While these theories had and continue to have significance for mainstream anthropological studies, the emerging phenomenon of witchcraft-related crime in contemporary African societies poses challenges to the validity of such approaches. Earlier theories of witchcraft were based on studies of relatively homogeneous communities that were assumed to be static and unchanging. However, despite the political, social and economic changes that have occurred in these communities due to the influence of modernisation and globalisation, old witchcraft beliefs and practices have not only persisted, but they have adapted and manifested themselves in a new form, namely witchcraft-related crime. Since witchcraft has changed along with the communities in which it exists, old approaches to the study of witchcraft need to be modified to suit the postcolonial context. This paper will suggest a way forward in achieving this goal, as new approaches will become instrumental in efforts to apply cultural knowledge in the context of law enforcement in order to address this unique manifestation of crime.

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