Evil in Africa

Evil in Africa

Encounters with the Everyday
William Olsen and Walter van Beek, David Parkin
Distribution: World
Publication date: 08/30/2015
ISBN: 978-0-253-01750-5
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William C. Olsen, Walter E. A. van Beek, and the contributors to this volume seek to understand how Africans have confronted evil around them. Grouped around notions of evil as a cognitive or experiential problem, evil as malevolent process, and evil as an inversion of justice, these essays investigate what can be accepted and what must be condemned in order to evaluate being and morality in African cultural and social contexts. These studies of evil entanglements take local and national histories and identities into account, including state politics and civil war, religious practices, Islam, gender, and modernity.

Author Bio

William C. Olsen lectures in the African Studies Program at Georgetown University.

Walter E. A. van Beek is Professor of Anthropology of Religion at Tilburg University.


“Particularly valuable for the manner in which religious or mystical notions of evil are linked to more secular ones, notably violence and warfare, fetishes, gender constructs, psychoanalytic processes, personhood, theft, transnational connections, and apartheid.”
 — Isak Niehaus, co-author of Witchcraft, Power and Politics: Exploring the Occult in the South African Lowveld

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Table of Contents

Introduction: African Notions of Evil: The Chimera of Justice
Walter E.A. van Beek and William C. Olsen
Part I. Evil and the State/War
1. Political Evil: Witchcraft from the Perspective of the Bewitched
Sónia Silva
2. Untying Wrongs in Northern Uganda
Susan Reynolds Whyte, Lotte Meinert, Julaina Obika
3. The Evil of Insecurity in South Sudan: Violence and Impunity in Africa’s Newest State
Jok Madut Jok
4. Genocide, Evil and Human Agency: The Concept of Evil in Rwandan Explanations of the 1994 Genocide
Jennie E. Burnet
5. Politics and Cosmographic Anxiety: Kongo and Dagbon Compared
Wyatt MacGaffey
Part II. Evil and Religion
6. Ambivalence and the Work of the Negative Among the Yaka
René Devisch
7. Azé and the Incommensurable
Léocadie Ekoué with Judy Rosenthal
8. Evil and the Art of Revenge in the Mandara Mountains
Walter E.A. van Beek
9. Distinctions in the Imagination of Harm in Contemporary Mijikenda Thought: The Existential Challenge of Majini
Diane Ciekawy
10. Haunted by Absent Others: Movements of Evil in a Nigerian City
Ulrika Trovalla
11. Attributions of Evil among Haalpulaaren, Senegal
Roy Dilley
12. Reflections regarding Good and Evil: The Complexity of Words in Zanzibar
Kjersti Larsen
13. Constructing Moral Personhood: The Moral Test in Tuareg Sociability as a Commentary on Honor and Dishonor
Susan J. Rasmussen
14. The Gender of Evil: Maasai Experiences and Expressions
Dorothy L. Hodgson
Part III. Evil and Modernity
15. Neo-Cannibalism, Military Bio-Politics, and the Problem of Human Evil
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
16. Theft and Evil in Asante
William C. Olsen
17. Sorcery after Socialism: Liberalization and Anti Witchcraft Practices in Southern Tanzania
Maia Green
18. Transatlantic Pentecostal Demons in Maputo
Linda van de Kamp
19. The Meaning of "Apartheid" and the Epistemology of Evil
Adam Ash