In many parts of Asia, sorcery is a way of dealing with uncertainty and disquiet whilst producing them at the same time. This panel interrogates issues of representation, purpose, technique and implementation of sorcery in Asia, to offer new understandings of personhood, morality and social change.
Though the study of economies of the occult is a relatively marginal field of enquiry among anthropologists working on contemporary Asia, most will have noticed the presence of one form or another of malevolent magic and supernatural aggressions in their field. Addressing the issue of sorcery, and related occult categories, is particularly appropriate to this conference as it emerges specifically in a context of anxiety, uncertainty and instability whether in situations of illness, misfortune or conflict and social tensions, at times when one seeks to regain agency (both as a victim or a perpetrator of the occult). This panel proposes to examine occult economies in Asia through several frames: cursing and curing, rumors and accusations, personal revenge and supernatural justice. The contributions can address, among others, the following issues: the persistence of sorcery as an aetiological category in the context of growing allopathic hegemony and the place of counter-sorcery practices among available therapeutic recourses; the strategic values of recourse to the occult in situations of social tension or open conflict, the social status of clients of the occult and the nature of the relationship to their victims (kin, birth group, colleagues, etc…); contemporary case studies of accusations of witchcraft as a meta-commentary of the anxiety and disruption caused by social change, the existence or absence of judiciary action and media attention; the material and technical aspects of the implementation of supernatural aggressions, representations of efficiency and typologies of supernatural aggressions; the nature and quality of anxiety and uncertainty associated with the occult.