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Policing ‘Evil’: State-sponsored Witch-hunting in the People’s Republic of Bénin

Policing ‘Evil’: State-sponsored Witch-hunting in the People’s Republic of Bénin © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2011 DOI: 10.1163/157006611X556647 Journal of Religion in Africa 41 (2011) 4-34 brill.nl/jra Policing ‘Evil’: State-sponsored Witch-hunting in the People’s Republic of Bénin Jeffrey Kahn Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago 1126E. 59thSt., Chicago, IL 60637 jskahn@uchicago.edu Abstract During the 1970s and 1980s, the People’s Republic of Bénin pursued a nationwide moderniza- tion project to hunt down and incarcerate the country’s population of witches. State actors came to stake the core of this project on the binary opposition between retrograde witches and modern revolutionaries. However, by licensing morally ambiguous cult leaders as state- authorized witch-hunters, state actors violated the neat oppositions of their political project’s modernist ideological framework and became part of the occult world they were attempting to eradicate. This article explores the use of witchcraft discourses and witch-hunting practices to organize massive, state-sponsored programs and to define national imaginaries of progress. By examining the practices, institutions, and structures that emerged from such deployments, this article demonstrates the potentiality of witchcraft to operate as a central component of large- scale political mobilizations in the name of modernity. Keywords witchcraft, modernity, Vodun , West Africa, People’s Republic of Bénin Introduction This article explores a http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Religion in Africa Brill

Policing ‘Evil’: State-sponsored Witch-hunting in the People’s Republic of Bénin

Journal of Religion in Africa , Volume 41 (1): 4 – Jan 1, 2011

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 2011 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0022-4200
eISSN
1570-0666
DOI
10.1163/157006611X556647
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2011 DOI: 10.1163/157006611X556647 Journal of Religion in Africa 41 (2011) 4-34 brill.nl/jra Policing ‘Evil’: State-sponsored Witch-hunting in the People’s Republic of Bénin Jeffrey Kahn Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago 1126E. 59thSt., Chicago, IL 60637 jskahn@uchicago.edu Abstract During the 1970s and 1980s, the People’s Republic of Bénin pursued a nationwide moderniza- tion project to hunt down and incarcerate the country’s population of witches. State actors came to stake the core of this project on the binary opposition between retrograde witches and modern revolutionaries. However, by licensing morally ambiguous cult leaders as state- authorized witch-hunters, state actors violated the neat oppositions of their political project’s modernist ideological framework and became part of the occult world they were attempting to eradicate. This article explores the use of witchcraft discourses and witch-hunting practices to organize massive, state-sponsored programs and to define national imaginaries of progress. By examining the practices, institutions, and structures that emerged from such deployments, this article demonstrates the potentiality of witchcraft to operate as a central component of large- scale political mobilizations in the name of modernity. Keywords witchcraft, modernity, Vodun , West Africa, People’s Republic of Bénin Introduction This article explores a

Journal

Journal of Religion in AfricaBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2011

Keywords: Vodun; West Africa; modernity; People’s Republic of Bénin; witchcraft

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