Accepted paper:

The zombie economy, how real? Witchcraft and economic engagement in rural South Africa

Author:

Matthew Gmalifo Mabefam (University of Melbourne)

Paper short abstract:

Poor and unemployed youth in rural South Africa blame witches for killing and resurrecting people known as zombies to engage in economic activities to their detriment. This paper examines the realities and the impact of zombies in development in South Africa.

Paper long abstract:

The pervasiveness of witchcraft beliefs and practice in Africa seems to have no bounds. It serves as explanatory cause for any unexplained fortune or misfortune in many arenas. Such is the case of the zombies in rural economy of South Africa; where extreme poor and unemployed youth blame witches for killing and resurrecting people to engage in economic activities to their detriment. I use this case to argue that witchcraft discourses serve as a "cap" on the extent to which development can take place in Africa. This proposition is made with reference to the fact that almost every African is overtly or covertly afraid of being the target of an attack or being victimised as a witch if he/she falls outside of the normative. Most Africans always find their state of condition in the relation to the external locus of control whether real/imagined. If it is not government, colonialism, slave trade, neighbour, brother, sister, uncle, then it ultimately that old woman, the "witch". In this context, it seems Africans deny the role of self-agency as a locus of control in their personal predicaments- irrespective of what they do, what others perceive of him/her matters. It is based on foregoing that the paper examines the position of the zombie in the economic engagement in rural South Africa, how real and to what extent does it impact development?

panel Rel04
Moral highground? Magic, witchcraft and spiritual encounters