Witch Camps and Witchcraft Discourse in Africa: Critiquing Development Practices explores how local development interventions related to witchcraft in Africa intersect and conflict with globally accepted development practices. This book argues that development practitioners need to pay attention to what concepts like “witchcraft” and “occult” mean to local people, and provides a nuanced account of how different development actors conceptualize and approach development in Africa through communities of refuge. Matthew Mabefam invites development practitioners to be open to culturally sensitive solutions to social inequalities, rather than dismissing them and acting in ways that may further aggravate the challenges faced by individuals accused of witchcraft. The foundational knowledge for the book is derived from ongoing ethnographic fieldwork in Gnani in Northern Ghana—a rural community that provides refuge for people who have been banished from their communities—and is deeply informed by the author’s experiences of growing up and working within refuge communities in Ghana. This book contributes to the decolonization of development epistemes, knowledge, and practices, and contributes to a better understanding of the limits of the neo-liberal paradigm of socio-economic development that has dominated the direction of development policy.
Matthew Gmalifo Mabefam is a lecturer in anthropology and development studies in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne.
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: ‘Witches Are Falling From The Sky’: Problematising Witchcraft Beliefs and Practices In Africa
Chapter 1: Who is a Witch? Judgement, Facts, Truths and Knowledge
Chapter 2: After Judgment: Experiences of Navigating Life in Communities of Refuge
Chapter 3: Limitless Opportunities for Wealth? Witchcraft/Occult as a Strategy for (In)Equality and Economic (Dis) Empowerment
Chapter 4: Intervening in ‘Witch Camps’: A Contestation and Controversy
Conclusion: Decolonisation of Development Epistemes, Knowledge, and Practices
About the Author
Mabefam’s excellent and engrossing study offers a sound ethnography of the controversial ‘witch camps’ and local witchcraft ideas in northern Ghana. The book shakes and reshapes our understanding and intellectual engagement with the highly positional, slippery and tensional concepts such as witchcraft and ‘witch camps’, and calls to attention the need to decolonize orthodox scholarship and neo-liberal (presumably Western) epistemologies that have dominated development and academic discourses on African witchcraft since the time of colonialism.
If you want to know about witchcraft and witch camps in Africa, this is the book for you. Although perceptions about witch camps are negative, surprisingly, this book projects the camps as safe sanctuaries because the alleged witches are under the protection of the chief who oversees the camp. I recommend this book because there is something almost valiant in the way inescapably invisible dogmas about witchcraft are carved as confusing and at the same time, the phenomenon is queried as to whether it is an opportunity for wealth or a course for (in)equality and (dis) empowerment.