Hiding behind the church

towards an understanding of sorcery in Christian Papua New Guinea

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2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper considers the assumption that the long-term success of the Christian Churches in some parts of Papua New Guinea (PNG) will eliminate or even regulate the magical practices that are nowadays commonly described as 'sorcery'. Among the Vula'a of PNG men seeking prestige and influence turn to the Church, and some of them are said to be sorcerers who 'hide behind it'. Most deaths continue to be attributed to sorcery, and fear of sorcery and the need to counter it with other sorcery eclipses Christian proscriptions. It is power - rather than the introduced concepts of 'good' and 'evil' brought by Christian colonizers that dominates current discourse - that contributes to the persistence of sorcery albeit in a variety of new and introduced forms. Sorcery is effective because it creates a culture of fear. I conclude, then, by applying Heidegger's analysis of fear to Vula'a sorcery to suggest that an anthropology of fear will contribute to a better understanding of sorcery in contemporary PNG.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalThe Asia Pacific journal of anthropology
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • sorcery
  • Christianity
  • fear
  • power
  • magic
  • Papua New Guinea

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