- Book/source title
- International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences
- Pages (from-to)
- Amsterdam: Elsevier
- Volume | Edition (Publisher)
- 25 | 2
- ISBN (electronic)
- Document type
- Entry for encyclopedia/dictionary
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Till far into the twentieth century two nodal points in the study of witchcraft stood out: the work by historians on witch trials in early modern Europe, and anthropologists' studies of its role in local tensions in Africa and Melanesia. The differences between the two settings were so glaring that some authors objected to the use of the same term. Yet, in both settings similar themes emerged, even though these were interpreted in quite a different way. Common interests were the relation of witchcraft to the forces of modernity (the State, the Market), but equally its ongoing link to the intimacy of family and home; also its relation to (a)moral power, to healing, and to class differences. Moreover, over the last decades the geography of witchcraft studies was constantly widening: seminal studies appeared concerning different parts of Asia, Latin America, and other regions of the world. In 2004, historian Wolfgang Behringer published a ‘global history’ of witches and witch-hunts, challenging anthropologists to finally stop their endless bickering over right or wrong terms, so that comparisons could at last take off. The differences between the approaches by historians and anthropologists should not be exaggerated, but precisely the confrontation between the two can help to focus on new directions for research around this challenging topic that seems to refuse to be domesticated.
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