A DISARMAMENT PROGRAM FOR WITCHES: The Prospective Politics of Antiwitchcraft, Postwarcraft, and Rebrandcraft in Sierra Leone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Descending on the capital city of Freetown a decade after Sierra Leone's civil war, members of the Sierra Leone Indigenous Traditional Healers Union (SLITHU) unearthed countless "witch guns," apprehended dozens of malevolent witches, and endeavored to rehabilitate culprits as productive citizen herbalists. The organization's leader, President Field Marshal Alhaji Dr. Sulaiman Kabba, described these operations as a "disarmament program" for witches, discursively echoing postwar disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs previously imposed by the United Nations. Moreover, he dubbed SLITHU's interventions "a rebranding effort," appropriating pervasive marketing rhetorics. This article follows Kabba's example by successively examining the disarmament campaign through the discourses of antiwitchcraft, postwarcraft, and rebrandcraft. A common logic underlying all three discourses hinges on a spectacular politics by prospection, exposing aspirations for social transformation but displacing the labor of change from leaders to their putative clients. The illusory effects of witch-finding, postwar reintegration, and rebranding epitomize models of contemporary neoliberal governance built on an unstable foundation of trust rather than material investment, leaving them vulnerable to devastating collapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-271
Number of pages32
JournalCultural Anthropology
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2019

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disarmament
witch
Sierra Leone
politics
reintegration
leader
demobilization
discourse
capital city
civil war
UNO
rhetoric
president
marketing
campaign
governance
labor
citizen
Disarmament
Witches

Keywords

  • Brands
  • Disarmament
  • Sierra Leone
  • Spectacle
  • Traditional medicine
  • Trust
  • Violence
  • Witchcraft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this

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