Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

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Posts Tagged ‘Witchcraft



Rome, 30 th November – 1st December 2012



P.le A. Moro, 5  – 00185 Roma

Rationale of the workshop

Medicine, religion, witchcraft are three apparently different domains of ideas, knowledge, practices and beliefs, as well as three different domains of anthropological investigation characterized by rather independent objectives, methods and theoretical frameworks.

Medicine and religion have often been tackled together or at least approached with similar goals, and interconnected in the observation and analysis. Traditional medicine and witchcraft have been often superimposed or confused by colonial powers and practices, and even today the popular discourse confuses them. Religion and witchcraft show some links both in practices and beliefs that have been explored only partially. The anthropological interest in these three fields of investigation is almost always intermingled with questions and arguments of political, economic, psychological nature that dealt more with each field separately than with the complex web of interrelations among them.

We wish to propose an integrated method of study which may give the opportunity of working in the perspective of analyzing that complex web, and producing a new and deeper anthropological awareness and capability in the interpretation of events, processes and representations implying the three categories and fields, as well as their socio-psychological, economic-political and symbolic backgrounds. The workshop aims at contributing to the construction of such a new perspective through the proposal of developing analyses and discussions that put witchcraft at the centre in order to reflect on its reciprocal interrelations with medicine, on one  side, and religion, on the other, keeping the system of relations between medicine and religion as an empirical and theoretical horizon.

Witchcraft turned again as a topical subject since the late Eighties of last Century mainly for its links with wealth and power, and in relation to its supposed  universality within the globalization process, giving rise consequently to a strong interest in the postmodern wave, highly influenced by the foucaultian theses. The hidden risk in this intellectual trend lies in the allurement of proposing again, even though in terms radically new, the issue of the function of witchcraft as a factor of social cohesion in the context of the practices and representations in a globalized world. Therefore, the understanding of the deep nature of witchcraft, and its mysterious and enigmatic principles of reality, and its links with the material and spiritual aspects of reality – culturally and scientifically represented by medicine and religion – runs the risk of escape completely.


1. Aria Dr.Matteo (PostDoc, Sapienza University of Rome)

2. Bellagamba Prof. Alice (Professor of Anthropology, University of Milan Bicocca)

3. Casciano Davide (MA student, Sapienza University of Rome)

4. Ceriana Mayneri Dr. Andrea (PostDoc, Université Catholique de Louvain)

5. Costantini Osvaldo (PhD student, Sapienza University of Rome)

6. Ekem Rev. Prof. John David K. (Academic Dean, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon,

Accra, Ghana)

7. Lupo Prof. Alessandro (Professor of Anthropology, Sapienza University of Rome)

8. Meyer Prof. Birgit (Professor of Religious Studies, University of Utrecht)

9. Pavanello Prof. Mariano (Professor of Anthropology, Sapienza University of Rome)

10. Schirripa Prof. Pino (Professor of Anthropology, Sapienza University of Rome)

11. Vasconi Dr. Elisa (PhD, University of Siena)

Department of Religious Studies and Theology, Trans 14, 3512 JK Utrecht, Netherlands;

tel. +31302533838.

Webpage:; co-editor of Material Religion


Friday 30

th November 2012, morning – 1st Session (Witchcraft:

epistemological issues)


Mariano Pavanello, Birgit Meyer, Opening of the workshop


Matteo Aria, Witchcraft, biopower and extraordinary anthropology


Mariano Pavanello, A hypothesis on the nature of African witchcraft

12.30 debate

13.00 lunch

Friday 30

th November 2012, afternoon – 2nd Session (Medicine, Religion,

Witchcraft in ethnographic perspective)


Andrea Ceriana Mayneri, Sorcellerie, enfance et abandon en Afrique



Alessandro Lupo, Patients, mystical journeys and health care:

negotiating therapeutic paths in Mexican contexts of medical pluralism


Pino Schirripa, Where Christianity is ancient. Pentecostalism, evil in the

world and break with the past in Ethiopia


Osvaldo Costantini, B Yesus Sïm (in the name of Jesus). Some notes

about Eritrean and Ethiopian Pentecostal churches in Rome (Italy)

17.00 debate

18.00 closing

20.00 dinner at gazebo restaurant of

Casa dell’Aviatore” (v.le Università, 20)

Saturday 1

st December 2012, morning – 3rd Session (Medicine, Religion,

Witchcraft in politics and history )


Rev. John David K. Ekem Medicine, Religion and Healing. An African



Alice Bellagamba, Politics and African witchcraft: a long term discussion


Elisa Vasconi, Witchcraft, Traditional Medicine and Colonial Rule in



Davide Casciano, Pentecostalism, HIV and Witchcraft in Nigeria

11.30 debate


Birgit Meyer, Conclusions

13.00 closing


Call for Abstracts: “A ‘Supernatural’ History of Central Europe, 1870-present”

Editors: Eric Kurlander (Stetson U.) and Monica Black (U. of Tenn., Knoxville)

Deadline: August 1, 2012

Despite the ostensible “disenchantment of the world” proclaimed by Max Weber at the beginning of the twentieth century, Central Europe has a rich modern history of occultism, folklore, paganism, and popular religion. Yet the “supernatural history” of this ethno- culturally diverse region, extending from the Rhine and Baltic in the North and West to the Vistula and Danube in the South and East, has yet to be written. To be sure, the last twenty years have witnessed a renaissance of interest in Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish religious practice since the late-nineteenth century. With the exception a few excellent monographs on occultism and parapsychology, however, historians have been slow to investigate less conventional aspects of the “supernatural” in Modern Central Europe.

We seek abstracts from scholars interested in exploring the new spiritualities, unique metaphysical experiences and practices, and novel explanations of the world that stood somewhere between natural scientific verifiability and the shopworn truths of traditional religion, and which flourished across Central Europe in the wake of the Second Industrial Revolution. We are keen to see submissions that integrate social, political, and cultural history with “supernatural” thinking and practice, broadly conceived. We are especially interested in submissions that will extend their analysis and explorations beyond national boundaries, connecting people, ideas, experiences, and movements interculturally and transnationally.

Obviously, profound complexities inhere in the term “supernatural”—and no less so in terms like “popular religion,” let alone “superstition.” All of these terms bristle with invidious distinctions and reifications imposed by those seeking to draw sharp contrasts between “orthodox” and “heterogeneous” manifestations of religion and between “science” and “popular belief”—which for our purposes might refer to various methods of explaining, knowing, and experiencing the world that somehow draw on the numinous or the metaphysical. Not only has the presence and broad scope of such practices and ideas not yet been fully explored, but they have also not been properly integrated into larger histories of Central European culture, society, and politics—despite the fact that they have from time to time been the cause of considerable friction.

By bringing together scholars from German, Austrian, Hapsburg, and Slavic Studies, we hope to address questions central to the study of Central European politics, culture, and identity in new ways. What meanings can we assign to the renewal of interest in occultism, “pseudo-science,” and folklore studies in the decades around the fin-de-siècle? How does the waxing or waning of these fields relate to questions of war and peace, revolution and reaction, crisis and stability? How have differences between “science” and “pseudo-science” been articulated in various moments and why? How did folklore, occultism, “pseudo-science” and other “supernatural” practices function as alternatives to organized religion at various moments in the Central European past? How was a fascination with the “supernatural” reflected in popular culture and the arts from the nineteenth century to today? What roles have popular superstition and everyday rituals played in Central European attempts to negotiate the trials of the twentieth century? What role did such rituals––“political religion” or otherwise––play in the legitimization of fascism, communism, and other forms of authoritarian politics before and after 1945? What influence did “supernatural” ideas and practices have in generating policies of ethnic cleansing, eugenics, and imperialism, or how can they been seen as a response to those policies? What were the differences East and West of the Iron Curtain after 1945? What are the implications in terms of class, gender, identity, and ethnicity?

Potential topics may include but are not limited to:


Pseudo-science” and parapsychology

Séances, spirit media, and communication with the dead


Faith healing


Palm reading

Clairvoyance and prophecy

Ghost stories and apparitions



New Age


Vampires, werewolves and other monsters

Pagan” religions

The horror genre, science fiction, and “fantastic” in film, art, and literature

If you are interested in contributing an abstract of not more than 500 words for consideration, please send it, along with your CV, to Monica Black ( and Eric Kurlander ( by AUGUST 1, 2012.

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