Call for panel members: “Witchcraft accusations and Christianity: Syncretisms and Synergies” — Society for the Anthropology of Religion

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Call for panel members:
“Witchcraft accusations and Christianity: Syncretisms and Synergies” for
the Society for the Anthropology of Religion Biannual Conference April
12-14, 2013 in Pasadena. The following is an initial draft of what the
panel might cover:

In many regions of the world historically studied by anthropologists, older
ideologies and practices related to witchcraft accusations are being
reinvigorated, in part by being reshaped into new and more “Christian”
forms. As witch ideologies are reconfigured synergistically to incorporate
Christian ideas of Satan, demons, and exorcism, and as Christian pastors
themselves increasingly replace “pagan” diviners and “witchdoctors” as
primary “carriers” of the new ideologies and divinatory/accusatory
practices, witch ideologies and accusations become increasingly central to
Christian communities and to Christian orthodoxies. New patterns (where
orphan children are accused of being witches for example, or where exorcism
is deemed the appropriate treatment for the witch) are developing.
Although there is not a single instance in the Bible where one person’s
affliction is attributed to another person acting through evil occult
means, a significant percentage of Christian leaders in many parts of
Africa or New Guinea affirm that misfortunes are caused by people in their
midst (the elderly, widows, orphans) who are secretly witches acting
supernaturally to bring harm. Disbelieving this is tantamount to
disbelieving in God, for many Christians, as it was for John Wesley.
In many cases Christian leaders and institutions contribute to the labeling
of children, old widows, and others as witches, often with severe social
consequences. Of course churches often also attempt to play roles which
protect the accused. There is no single pattern in the churches. This panel
will explore “syncretisms and synergies”
between pre-Christian witchcraft ideologies and practices and contemporary
Christian ideologies and practices related to witchcraft.

If you are interested in submitting a paper proposal for this panel, please
email a one-page paper proposal with your name, academic affiliation, and
email to Robert J. Priest by the deadline:
January 11, 2013
Email: rpriest [at]

Robert J. Priest, Professor Mission and Anthropology Trinity Evangelical
Divinity School P.S. If you want to see a sample of my own writing on the
topic, see my review of Adam Ashforth’s book Witchcraft, Violence, and
Democracy in South Africa.

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