n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Cultural profiling : the (ab)use of cultural beliefs in criminal profiling in witchcraft-related cases in the Eastern Cape

Special Edition 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



This article aims to explore the role of cultural profiling within the context of witchcraft-related crime. The concept 'cultural profiling' is discussed in relation to the perhaps more familiar criminological concept of "criminal profiling". The article seeks to determine whether or not there are similarities or differences between cultural and criminal profiling, and also how cultural profiling may be used or abused within the context of a specific type of crime that can be called witchcraft-related. Some scholars have referred to the idea of 'cultural policing', implying that certain crimes, or what could be defined as crimes, are culturally specific, and depend on the consensus of 'the people' to be defined as crimes. This suggests that in such culturally specific definitions of crime, there may also be culturally specific ways of profiling those who are most likely to engage in such crimes. Witchcraft is an example of such a culturally specific crime. Based upon the author's research in Mpondoland in the Eastern Cape, the article illustrates how cultural profiling can influence perceptions of crime and perpetrators in witchcraft-related cases. This is relevant to law enforcement, in that it sheds some light on how and why there may be vastly differing perceptions between communities and law enforcement of crime and criminals, as a consequence of the different ways of profiling.

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