n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Satanism-related and witchcraft-related crimes : possible interdisciplinary links between anthropology and criminology in the study of "ritualistic crimes"

Volume 21, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Criminal activities that can broadly be called "witchcraft-related crimes" have become commonplace in South Africa. These crimes have been equated with crimes that are labelled as "Satanism-related" due to a perceived similarity between these crimes - a similarity that focuses on so-called occult beliefs. Central to understanding these types of crimes is the idea that the perpetrators commit them in a ritualistic context, which has led to these crimes also being referred to as "ritualistic crimes". This paper will attempt to draw a comparison between Satanism-related and witchcraft-related crimes in South Africa in order to establish whether they are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. This issue is crucial as it relates to law enforcement conceptualisations of these crimes. It is argued that witchcraft-related crime, as well as Satanism-related crime, is not clearly defined within law enforcement structures and this hampers their efforts in effectively investigating and curbing crimes of this nature, especially as it applies to witchcraft-related crime. In addition, it will also be argued that witchcraft-related crime cannot easily be grouped under Satanism-related crimes, despite perceived similarities with regard to the modus operandi of some kinds of witchcraft-related crimes. Given the complexity in defining crimes as "Satanism-related" or "witchcraft-related", this paper makes a case for an interdisciplinary approach to ritualistic crimes, specifically calling for greater co-operation between the anthropological and criminological approaches to crime.

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