By Miranda Forsyth
Centre for International Governance & Justice, ANU
It’s time to move beyond sensationalist and moralistic portrayals of the violence associated with witchcraft and sorcery. Torturing, burning, killing and banishing individuals accused of witchcraft or sorcery is a significant problem across the world. But media coverage is regularly premised on the tired dichotomy of the civilized West and the primitive “other”. Common headlines such as “it is the twenty-first century and they are still burning witches” assumes such behavior is determined by some inevitable evolutionary timeline. But on the ground it is often the stresses of modern life that are driving the escalation in witchcraft violence. Nor is belief in magic, evil and unexplained (and unexplainable) phenomena limited to the global South: a Gallup survey in 2005 found seventy five percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief.