n English in Africa - "The Danger Inside" : witchcraft and community in South African literature

Volume 41, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



How has South African literature conceived of a commonality that includes multiple relations with the phenomenal world? My essay addresses this question by tracing the representation of witchcraft and the supernatural in a selection of key South African literary texts, namely, Thomas Mofolo's , Es'kia Mphahlele's and Phaswane Mpe's . I proceed from the assumptions that a belief in occult powers is often central to local knowledge systems in South Africa, and that this belief should be acknowledged as a commonplace feature of life if one is to understand certain aspects of the social, political and, by extension, literary landscape. In this regard, I imagine the supernatural functioning like dark matter: it is an invisible factor that determines the shape of everything around it. The topic of the supernatural and witchcraft produces a kind of occulting effect, which results in silences and gaps in our understanding of the social. This occultation extends to literary studies, where the representation of the supernatural in literature receives surprisingly little attention.

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