Nadel’s ‘Witchcraft in Four African Societies’

In this chapter, Nadel sets out to analyse particular variants of the belief in witchcraft by comparing two pair of societies:

-The Nupe and Gwari in Northern Nigeria
-The Korongo and Mesakin tribes in the Nuba mountains of the Central Sudan

Nadel shows how similar two societies can be. For example, the Korongo and Mesakin share the economy, political organisation, religious beliefs and practices, kinship systems and domestic arrangements. Yet, the Korongo have no witchcraft beliefs at all and the Mesakin are obsessed by fears of witchcraft. It shows how insecurities and anxiety can go on to govern a society in a manner in which witchcraft can be used to absolve the society from tasks that are found difficult to resolve.

Witchcraft and gender have an important relationship in Nupe society according to Nadel. The beliefs of the Nupe where witchcraft is a negative force in society links together with the belief that Nupe witches are always women ultimately given women a negative role in society. Men however, are seen as positive effect on society, blocking evil and fatal effect of female witchcraft. Gender portrayal is always an interesting topic to read into


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