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Magic and witchcraft: Implications for democratization and poverty-alleviating aid in Africa

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  • Kohnert, Dirk

Abstract

The belief in occult forces is still deeply rooted in many African societies, regardless of education, religion, and social class of the people concerned. According to many Africans its incidence is even increasing due to social stress and strain caused (among others) by the process of modernization. Most often magic and witchcraft accusations work to the disadvantage of the poor and deprived, but under particular circumstances they become a means of the poor in the struggle against oppression by establishing “cults of counterviolence”. Magic and witchcraft beliefs have increasingly been instrumentalized for political purposes. Apparently they can be used to support any kind of political system, whether despotic or democratic. The belief in occult forces has serious implications for development cooperation. Development projects, which constitute arenas of strategic groups in their struggle for power and control over project resources, are likely to add further social stress to an already endangered precarious balance of power, causing witchcraft accusations to flourish. In addition, witchcraft accusations may serve as indicators of hidden social conflicts which are difficult to detect by other methods.
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Suggested Citation

  • Kohnert, Dirk, 1996. "Magic and witchcraft: Implications for democratization and poverty-alleviating aid in Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 24(8), pages 1347-1355, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:24:y:1996:i:8:p:1347-1355
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kohnert, Dirk & Elwert, Georg & Bierschenk, Thomas, 1993. "The long-term effects of development aid - Empirical studies in rural West Africa," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 83-111.
    2. Kohnert, Dirk, 1988. "Socialism without liberation: Land Reclamation Projects in Guinea-Bissau," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 161-175.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gershman, Boris, 2016. "Witchcraft beliefs and the erosion of social capital: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 182-208.
    2. Jean-Philippe Platteau, 2009. "Institutional Obstacles to African Economic Development: State, Ethnicity, and Custom," Post-Print hal-00726664, HAL.
    3. Kohnert, Dirk, 2011. "Cultures of Innovation of the African Poor – Common roots, shared traits, joint prospects? On the articulation of multiple modernities in African societies and Black Diasporas in Latin America," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 241-262.
    4. Schumacher, Heiner & Hadnes, Myriam, 2010. "Contract Enforcement by the Gods," Proceedings of the German Development Economics Conference, Hannover 2010 11, Verein für Socialpolitik, Research Committee Development Economics.
    5. Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2009. "Institutional obstacles to African economic development: State, ethnicity, and custom," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 669-689, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania
    • N97 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy
    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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