The Opposite of Witchcraft: Evans-Pritchard and the Problem of the Person

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The principal legacy of Evans-Pritchard's 1937 ethnography Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande has been to logically associate the study of witchcraft with misfortune. In combination with Evans-Pritchard's own scepticism regarding the existence of witches, this has allowed much anthropological work on witchcraft to retain it as a special category of analysis (at odds with EP's own assertion of witchcraft's ordinariness). Such exceptionalism is not supported by comparable ethnography from the Ladakh of the Himalayas nor, it is argued, by the unabridged versions of Evans-Pritchard's ethnography, both of which point towards an indigenous understanding of witchcraft as a simple variation of everyday action and craft. Unlike the ring-fenced 'witchcraft' of Evans-Pritchard's legacy, which was relegated to a cse-study in the problem of rationality, a revised reading of Evans-Pritchard's ethnography raises larger questions as to social science's understanding of how humans ascribe action and personhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-33
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • witchcraft
  • personhood
  • Azande Ladakh


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