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Studies in Public and Applied Anthropology
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Witches and Demons
A Comparative Perspective on Witchcraft and Satanism
Jean La Fontaine
156 pages, bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-78533-085-8 $95.00/£67.00 Hb Published (April 2016)
ISBN 978-1-78533-152-7 $27.95/£19.00 Pb Published (April 2016)
eISBN 978-1-78533-086-5 eBook
“The richness of ethnographic material and historical and anthropological theory makes Witches and Demons an interesting book not only for those who study the Satanism scare or the African diaspora, but for anyone who wants to know more about the background of accusations of Satanism and witchcraft, be it from their Western or African roots or a combination of both.” • Reading Religion
“If you are interested in anthropology, this is a must read, as the general aim is understanding the other.” • Acta Comparanda
“This is an extremely interesting set of chapters. Together they create a carefully drawn exercise in comparison as a major methodological tool of anthropology, and its advantages and problems. The book is very clearly written, well argued, and fascinating.” • Frances Pine, Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London
Devil worship, black magic, and witchcraft have long captivated anthropologists as well as the general public. In this volume, Jean La Fontaine explores the intersection of expert and lay understandings of evil and the cultural forms that evil assumes. The chapters touch on public scares about devil-worship, misconceptions about human sacrifice and the use of body parts in healing practices, and mistaken accusations of children practicing witchcraft. Together, these cases demonstrate that comparison is a powerful method of cultural understanding, but warns of the dangers and mistaken conclusions that untrained ideas about other ways of life can lead to.
Jean La Fontaine is a Research Fellow of Inform and Professor Emeritus at the London School of Economics, where she taught for nearly twenty years. She received her PhD from the University of Cambridge and has chaired the Association of Social Anthropologists, and served as President of the Royal Anthropological Institute.
Subject: General Anthropology Religion
Introduction: Understanding the Other
Chapter 1. Hidden Enemies: Evil at the end of the Millennium
Chapter 2. Concepts of Evil, Witchcraft and the Sexual Abuse of Children in Modern England
Chapter 3. Ritual Murder?
Chapter 4. Magic and medicine: The Torso in the Thames
Chapter 5. Child Witches in London: Tradition and change in religious belief
Chapter 6. The morality of childhood
Chapter 7. Pastors and witches
Chapter 8. London’s witch children
Conclusion: Continuities and changes
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