Accepted paper:

Waiting for 'Beba': trust talk and alienation talk about super witch-catchers in the Kenyan coast


Katsuhiko Keida (Kumamoto University)

Paper short abstract:

Super witch-catchers, who can catch witches and override their magical powers, have appeared for a moment and then have vanished out of sight repeatedly in the Mijikenda societies of Kenya. I explore how people's talk of trust and alienation about witch-catchers has been continuing and changing.

Paper long abstract:

In 2007, a local family of the Mijikenda peoples near Malindi was waiting for Ali Beba who emerged as a new super or charismatic witch-catcher( muganga wa kuvoyera) in the Kenyan coast. But one year later, trust talk about Beba had changed rapidly into alienation talk about his eradicating power over witches. This kind of story on traditional healers is not entirely new but somewhat new. Beba means 'to carry' or 'to transport' in Swahili language and it became Ali's nickname as a witch-catcher because he can find a witch and then carry him/her on his back in a public space. One of my Mijikenda friends said, "Beba is amazing! When Beba found and caught a witch, a witch started to climb on Beba's back by himself automatically. Beba can make a witch feel ashamed in public! It is widely known that Beba is a most trustful healer in the Kenyan coast and also his grandfather is Kajiwe who worked as a legendry witch-catcher in Kenya. So, we are waiting for Beba in order to kick out witches from our homestead." After a while, Beba's reputation has been declined and people have started talking doubtfully about Beba's magical power. In the end, his medical centre at Malindi has closed down. Are people now waiting for another Beba? I will focus on why and how the Mijikenda peoples go and return between trust talk and alienation talk about super witch-catchers, such as Beba and Kajiwe through overviewing a brief history of charismatic traditional healers with the diversification of East Africa. The Mijikenda is niether alone nor unique, but just a bit obvious. How could we possibly think of the mix, trust and alienation, in diversity or super-diversity?

panel G20
Trust in super-diversity