The role of witchcraft accusations as an alternative form of self-expression
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Witchcraft has been extensively dismissed or simplified in popular thought, media and scholarship as a negative force that aggravates social hostilities and hinders peaceful cooperation between social groups. Even though the relevance of witchcraft in modern African societies is largely acknowledged today, many interpretations of the phenomenon are still grounded in "Western" thought. This thesis counters the negative perception of witchcrafts described above and explores it as an alternative form of self-expression in societies that are community oriented. The focus of the work is witchcraft beliefs among the Akan of Ghana, the biggest cultural and ethnic category in the country. Playing with psychological aspects of witchcraft beliefs, this research presents witchcraft among the Akan as a way for close-knit communities to regulate and personify their anti-social elements. In this context, witchcraft beliefs provide a vent for anxieties when communal responsibilities and etiquette place heavy obligations upon the members. They serve as an outlet for subconscious sentiments in societies where other means of conflict resolution are either unavailable or shunned. Since direct confrontation is not an option, anxieties and sharp emotional experiences are internalized, which in turn translates into witchcraft accusations. Unlike many functionalist theories, the psycho-functional view presented here avoids demystification of witchcraft through the Western lens, while at the same time normalizing it for outside observers.
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