double, double toil and trouble:
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DESCRIPTIONDouble, double toil and trouble: An investigation on occult forces expenditures in the heartland of voodoo Vincent Somville (Michelsen Institute, Bergen) Joël Noret (Université Libre de Bruxelles) Philippe LeMay-Boucher (Heriot-Watt University). 1. Preliminary considerations. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation
Double, double toil and trouble:
An investigation on occult forces expenditures in the heartland of
Vincent Somville (Michelsen Institute, Bergen)
Joël Noret (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
Philippe LeMay-Boucher (Heriot-Watt University)
Preconception that in Beninese (West-African) context occult forces were anecdotal
A mere tourist trap advertised at Beninese consulates.
But among locals : recurrent topic, something affecting daily lives, deeply rooted & pervasive
Preliminary considerations• ‘High representatives of established
Christian churches, such as the bishops of Lagos and Kinshasa, believe in witchcraft.’
• According to the latter, this belief is shared by about 80% of all Africans.
• ‘Even African scholars and decision makers, educated in renowned Western universities, strongly share witchcraft beliefs according to occasion, more or less openly.’(Kohnert, 1983; Kadya Tall, 1995)
Preliminary considerations• Jenkins and Curtis (2005) (SSM):
What drives decision to install a pit latrine in rural Benin (40 hh)?
→Protect from supernatural dangers (is one of the 3 main drive)
• A Latrine can prevent / attenuate:
1) Fear of supernatural illnesses caused by smelling or seeing others’ faeces
2) Fear of encountering a snake: a sign of impending death in family / Fear of voodoo sorcery, magic, and dead spirits in the night
3) Fear of enemies stealing your faeces for sorcery against you
Based on field evidence collected in Cotonou Benin (2006):
What hh & ind. characteristics influence expenditures in occult forces?
Anthropologist preoccupied by question for a long time
Will our empirical evidence corroborate their findings?
Some of our key findingsSpending in Occult Forces is not anecdotal
48% of all hh in our dataset spend positive amount in ‘Protection & Cure’
Expenditure on ‘Protection & Cure’ :
2.7% of all monthly expenditure
5.6% if we take subsample with non zero exp.
Our findings corroborate anthropologist assertions
What are occult forces?
Example: the granary & the death (Evans-Pritchard 1937)
How? = termites
Why? = occult forces give answer
Offers explanation to misfortune
Complex institutional system
What are occult forces?
Catch-all term: different practices from region to region
Mystical & super-natural power: good, evil, causation; coherent ideology for daily living
→ gives interpretations of misfortune
Not ‘belief’ about the world but self-evident & real force
Plurality of meanings, not all of them associated with harmful activities
Example of a client
• young father from a poor rural background: recently graduated from university
• Series of misfortunes in the last 6 months: child becoming ill + wife discovers she can no longer become pregnant.
• Interpretation: comes from an attack by occult forces →retaliation from his siblings who never
attended high school and remained in the village.
• To cure his household: buys services from local diviner.
Principal Mechanismjealousy, familial
dispute over heritage, unsettled legal dispute (land
ownership), professional progression
children failing school)Visit / diagnosis
Step towards protection/
1. Priest of the Fafor a diagnosis (100-500F)
2. Celestial Church of Christone candle, 25-100F
3. Pastor of Evangelical Church
4. Catholic Priest
1. Witchcraft / SorceryHarm/good done by witch/sorcerers who possess supernatural powers (no divinity)
Witch: natural talent
Sorcerer: uses ‘ingredients’ & incantations
Evil magic consciously practiced against others
Both low profile (fear of accusations)
Services not for sale
2. System of Magical belief: Voodoo
Complex pantheon of divinities
Voodoos = divinities with super powers, fear & devotion surrounding them
Perennial relationships: humans honoring them
Rituals & sacrifices required to activate specific powers
Breach of rules (or insufficient sacrifices) provoke their anger (→ illness, death)
Voodoo powers for sale
Tariffs flexible, depending on means of client
Suffice to ask a voodoo’s priest for an ‘attack’: ‘ingredients’, incantations & breach of rule
Whose decision to spend?
Household financial structure: husband & wife have separate financial spheres (Dagnelie et al. 2012)
Each latitude to make consumption decision on basis of own income
Provision of household goods:Social norms
Husband (breadwinner): house repair, rental fees, electricity, schooling fees, medical bills, extra money for housekeeping (complement wife’s contribution)
Occult forces : if hh is headed by a couple vast majority of cases males take in charge
Wife: cooking, care of family, water
Documented by: Falen (2003) + our numerous informal interviews + our descriptive stats
Questionnaire in 2 parts: a) Households characteristics, b) Personal expenditures
Separated women/men interviews
178 households, only head of household
Data on expenditures on Occult Forces:
PROTECTION or CURE
→ Nothing on ‘attack’
• See Table 1: Categories of magico-religious expenditure.
Hypotheses from literature
(1) Use/belief in occult forces is not gender-specific
(2) Use/belief is common at different levels of education
(3) Use/belief is common among various religious affiliation.
Exception: Celestial, pentecostal, rosarian Evangelical churches provide protection against occult forces
Hypotheses, cont.(4) Do Magico-religious beliefs play an important role in the enforcement of redistributive norms?
Income itself: no (can be concealed)
Item highly visible: auto/motorcycle
(5) Higher transfer to hh & relatives reduces jealousy & need for protection/cure
Current transfers (endogenous): transfers (t-1) in 2004
(6) Death or funerals are great source of tensions.
dummy if funeral inside family within last year
• Descriptive Stats: Table 2
• Estimation results: Table 4
ConclusionsSpending in Occult Forces is not anecdotal
Expenditure on ‘Protection & Cure’ : around 2% of all monthly expenditure
Dataset seems to give evidence in favour of anthropologist assertions
Larger prop. of HH spend on Occult forces than on bio-medical treatments