Explaining Abuse of “Child Witches” in Africa: Powerful Witchbusters in Weak States

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Authors
Snow, Steve
Issue Date
2017
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Journal Article
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Abstract
Thousands of African children have been accused of witchcraft, physically abused, and thrown out of their homes or killed over the last twenty years. Analyzing this phenomenon with the same model used to explain the pre-modern European witch hunts allows us to avoid contributing to the heart-of-darkness stereotype about Africa. Accusations of witchcraft against African children are prevalent where state authority is fragmented and open to pressure at the local level, in those areas with intense witch beliefs and sense of crisis stoked by zealous clergy acting as witchbusters. As in Europe for accused women, a perceived transgression of social roles by African children, due to increasing numbers of orphans due to the HIV crisis, has made them vulnerable to scapegoating. A focus on the Niger delta region, through examination of Nigerian and regional newspapers, indicates that witch hunts aimed at children can occur in weak or corrupt states, not only in collapsed states experiencing catastrophic crisis. In the wake of a 2008 BBC documentary, local Nigerian officials persecuted the activists who gave children shelter, apparently due to the political connections of the pastors who make money by labelling children as witches or demoniacs.|Keywords: child witches, witchcraft, Nigeria, weak states, witch hunts, child abuse
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Rabbi Myer and Dorothy Kripke Center, Creighton University
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The journal is open-access and freely allows users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of all published material for personal or academic purposes.
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1522-5658
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