Accepted paper:

Social strategies and the negotiation of legitimacy of witch-finders in Lusaka city.

Authors:

Katerina Mildnerova (Palacký University of Olomouc)

Paper short abstract:

The paper attempts to demonstrate how the social status, professional position and authority of witch-finders in Lusaka city is socially constructed within the formal and informal sector of traditional medicine.

Paper long abstract:

The paper attempts to demonstrate how the social status, professional position and authority of witch-finders (mchape) in Lusaka city is socially constructed within the formal and informal sector of traditional medicine. The author analyses divers social strategies that the witch-finders use to negotiate their legitimacy vis-à-vis the competition from a large number of "official" traditional healers and spiritual healers from the African Christian Independent Churches. Since the late 1990s, the quest for services of traditional healers specialised in witch-finding has gained popularity, particularly amongst the impoverished Lusaka compound-dwellers. Due to the increasing public violence against those denoted as witches, the activities of witch-finders were officially banned by the Witchcraft Act in 1995 and this profession is not officially recognised by the Constitution of Traditional Health Practitioners Association of Zambia (THAPAZ). In spite of the prohibition, there remain many witch-finders in Lusaka covering themselves under the certificate of proficiency as herbalists, diviners or spiritual healers. They practise witch-finding secretly, in order not to commit an offence they do not openly denounce the name of an alleged witch. Their authority and vocational legitimacy is threatened by many "official" as well as "unofficial" competitors in the city and it must be constantly reaffirmed and negotiated by introducing innovations. The ability to keep clients and to gain a good reputation thus depends on the originality of their diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. At the same time witch-finders must counter divers obstacles and uncertainties resulting from their illegal status within the sector of traditional medicine.

panel P092
Contemporary politics of informality: encounters between the "formal" and "informal" African city