Robert Priest on Witchcraft Accusations in Africa
Date: January 26th, 2014

Accusations of witchcraft in Africa appear to be on the rise according to many anthropologists.  Robert Priest, the G.W. Aldeen Professor of International Studies at Trinitiy Evangelical Divinity School discusses this phenomenom, covering the patterns, causes, and consequences of this trend.

Our discussion begins with what brought Prof. Priest, who has previously studied various aspects of missiology, to this topic.  We then progress to the definition of witchcraft and how there are some commonalities and differences across cultures.  Tony associates witchcraft trials with the past and asks Bob why this phenomenon has persisted in an era of increasing scientific knowledge.

Dr. Priest covers the different patterns of witchcraft accusations, discussing who is accused, what these accusations often consist of, and what the punishments are.  We also discuss the methodological issues concerned with studying such a sensitive topic.  We finish the discussion with the relationship between these accusations and Christianity in the region.  Bob notes that Christians are not only the subject of such accusations, but often are complicit in bringing such claims on others.  He discusses why this might be the case and then talks about how Christians are coming together to address how to manage all the issues we have discussed.  Recorded: January 22, 2014.



Robert Priest’s bio at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

This Side of Heaven: Race, Ethnicity, and Christian Faith, edited by Robert Priest and Alvaro Nieves.

The Witches of Gambaga by Yaba Badoe.

Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in South Africa, by Adam Ashforth (mentioned during interview).

American Society of Missiology.


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