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Sorcery in the Black Atlantic

Most scholarship on sorcery and witchcraft has narrowly focused on specific times and places, particularly early modern Europe and twentieth-century Africa. And much of that research interprets sorcery as merely a remnant of premodern traditions. Boldly challenging these views, Sorcery in the Black Atlantic takes a longer historical and broader geographical perspective, contending that sorcery is best understood as an Atlantic phenomenon that has significant connections to modernity and globalization.

A distinguished group of contributors here examine sorcery in Brazil, Cuba, South Africa, Cameroon, and Angola. Their insightful essays reveal the way practices and accusations of witchcraft spread throughout the Atlantic world from the age of discovery up to the present, creating an indelible link between sorcery and the rise of global capitalism. Shedding new light on a topic of perennial interest, Sorcery in the Black Atlantic will be provocative, compelling reading for historians and anthropologists working in this growing field.


“This is a rich and complex collection of essays that address a set of compelling questions about the relation between sorcery and modernity. Sorcery in the Black Atlantic brings together a set of first-rate scholars to demonstrate how the category of sorcery emerges from the overlapping claims of multiple interlocutors—scholars, elites, subalterns, Pentecostals, and others—as these speakers together weave a dense discursive field crossing between analytical and practical applications. The book brings into view for the first time the transatlantic and lusophone networks that help to produce sorcery and complicates in productive ways a by now overly familiar resistance/hegemony polarization.”

Paul Christopher Johnson, University of Michigan

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Sorcery in the Black Atlantic
Roger Sansi and Luis Nicolau Parés

2 Sorcery and Fetishism in the Modern Atlantic
Roger Sansi

3 Sorcery in Brazil: History and Historiography
Laura de Mello e Souza

4 Candomblé and Slave Resistance in Nineteenth-Century Bahia
João José Reis

5 Chiefs into Witches: Cosmopolitan Discourses of the Nation, Treason, and Sorcery; The Pondoland Revolt, South Africa
Katherine Fidler

6 Charlatans and Sorcerers: The Mental Hygiene Service in 1930s Recife, Brazil
Daniel Stone

7 From Enchantment by Science to Socialist Sorcery: The Cuban Republic and Its Savage Slot
Stephan Palmié

8 The Logic of Sorcery and Democracy in Contemporary Brazil
Yvonne Maggie

9 Naming the Evil: Democracy and Sorcery in Contemporary Cameroon and South Africa
Basile Ndjio

10 Families, Churches, the State, and the Child Witch in Angola
Luena Nunes Pereira

11 Sorcery, Territories, and Marginal Resistances in Rio de Janeiro
Patricia Birman

12 Witchcraft and Modernity: Perspectives from Africa and Beyond
Peter Geschiere


List of Contributors


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