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African Science: Witchcraft, Vodun, and Healing in Southern Benin.


African Science: Witchcraft, Vodun, and Healing in Southern Benin

Douglas J. Falen

University of Wisconsin Press


234 pages




Drawing on fieldwork conducted since 1996, the author examines the supernatural ideas and practices known as witchcraft (Cze) in the southern region of the Republic of Benin and their relationship to ideas of science, magic, healing, and the indigenous Vodun religion. He aims to destabilize common perceptions of witchcraft and reveal how Beninese people see and experience occult forces and claim that witchcraft is a science with links to religion, philosophy, and global spiritual movements. He explores philosophical questions about science and the occult, as well as between the occult and organized religions in Benin, including Christianity and Vodun. He shows how witchcraft is perceived as an "African" science; how the occult can be applied to destructive and productive ends, informing Beninese racial comparisons between Africans and foreign others; how discourses of witchcraftAEs good and evil sides reflect a philosophical outlook about duality and cosmic balance; how Beninese beliefs about the connection between science, witchcraft, and religion challenge Western disciplinary distinctions; and how these occult beliefs involve a universal idea of power in the world that includes science, technology, religion, and healing, allowing for the appropriation of foreign religions and esoteric traditions. He discusses the positive and negative features of witchcraft and the significance of the occult for the Beninese sense of identity and relationship to foreign others in Europe and North America; the question of occult reality in anthropological literature, what Beninese believe and how they believe it, and his personal experiences while there; the religious activity surrounding witchcraft in Benin; and spiritual healing beliefs and rituals and how healing's international influences have impacted universalist principles and the globalization of witchcraft ideas. ([umlaut] Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR)

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Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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