Economies of Witchcraft in African Literature (April 7-10, 2011)

full name / name of organization: 
Timothy Johns / Murray State University

Although recent studies in the social sciences have begun to focus on connections between witchcraft and the turbulent political economies of sub-Saharan Africa, studies in African literature have yet to fully confront this sensitive topic. The goal of this panel is to provide a forum for exploring intersections between witchcraft, the political economy, and African literature.

In many ways, the continuing legacy of witchcraft—into modernity and the postcolonial period—remains an enigma, particularly to outsiders. And yet, as novels such as Ben Okri's _The Famished Road_ (1991), Zakes Mda's _Ways of Dying_ (1995), and Phaswane Mpe's _Welcome to Our Hillbrow_ (2001) attest, witchcraft continues to play an important role in the struggles African literature aims to represent. Thus this panel encourages, but is not limited to, the submission of abstracts that 1) challenge traditional stereotypes about the practice of witchcraft in literature; 2) examine dynamics of gender and power in portrayals of witchcraft; 3) compare pre-colonial, colonial, and / or post-colonial representations of witchcraft; 4) explore tensions between Christianity (or Islam) and witchcraft; 5) examine notions of science, medicine, and the European "Enlightenment" in relation to practices of witchcraft; 6) and, above all, abstracts which focus on the materialist foundations for the endurance of witchcraft in African political economies and in everyday life. Treatments of witchcraft in film and other artistic mediums, such as music, will also be considered.

The panel will convene, if accepted, at the 42nd Annual NeMLA (Northeast Modern Language Association) Conference at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, from 7-10 April 2011.