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A Disarmament Program for Witches: The Prospective Politics of Antiwitchcraft, Postwarcraft, and Rebrandcraft in Sierra Leone

By Samuel Mark Anderson

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Cite As:
Anderson, Samuel. 2019. “A Disarmament Program for Witches: The Prospective Politics of Antiwitchcraft, Postwarcraft, and Rebrandcraft in Sierra Leone”. Cultural Anthropology 34 (2), 240-71. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca34.2.04.

Abstract

Descending on the capital city of Freetown a decade after Sierra Leone’s civil war, members of the Sierra Leone Indigenous Traditional Healers Union (SLITHU) unearthed countless “witch guns,” apprehended dozens of malevolent witches, and endeavored to rehabilitate culprits as productive citizen herbalists. The organization’s leader, President Field Marshal Alhaji Dr. Sulaiman Kabba, described these operations as a “disarmament program” for witches, discursively echoing postwar disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs previously imposed by the United Nations. Moreover, he dubbed SLITHU’s interventions “a rebranding effort,” appropriating pervasive marketing rhetorics. This article follows Kabba’s example by successively examining the disarmament campaign through the discourses of antiwitchcraft, postwarcraft, and rebrandcraft. A common logic underlying all three discourses hinges on a spectacular politics by prospection, exposing aspirations for social transformation but displacing the labor of change from leaders to their putative clients. The illusory effects of witch-finding, postwar reintegration, and rebranding epitomize models of contemporary neoliberal governance built on an unstable foundation of trust rather than material investment, leaving them vulnerable to devastating collapse.

Abstrakt

We dɛn bin de ɛnta di kapital siti Fritɔng tɛn ia afta di Salon sivul wa, memba dɛm na di Sierra Leone Indigenous Traditional Healers Union (SLITHU) pul wich gɔn dɛm, siz dɔzin pan dɛn wikɛd man wich dɛm ɛn tray fɔ cheng dɛm fɔ bi bɛtɛ sitizin ɛn abalist dɛm. Di ɔganayzeshɔn in lida, Prɛsidɛnt Fil Mashal Alhaji Dɔkta Sulaiman Kabba, diskrayb di ɔpreshɔn dɛm as “disamamɛnt program” fɔ wich dɛm. Dis in spich fala poswa disamamɛnt dimobilayzeshɔn ɛn rintigreshɔn program dɛm we di Yunaytɛd Nɛshɔn bin ɔblaj bifo. Fɔ ad pan dis, i bin kɔl SLITHU in intavɛnshɔn wan “ribrandin ɛfɔt” we i dɔn tek langwej frɔm global makitin. Dis atikul gɛt fɔ fala Kabba in kampen bay we ɔf pwel wich bisnɛs ɛn poswa biznɛs ɛn ribrand biznɛs wan-wan. Wan kɔmɔn lɔgic fɔseka ɔl tri diskɔshon ɛng pan spɛktakyula politiks fɔ fɛn prɔspɛkts ɛn so ɛkpos pipul dɛn aspireshɔn fɔ soshial transfɔmeshɔn yet disples di lebɔ fɔ cheng frɔm lida dɛm to dɛn wan dɛm we dipɛnd pan dɛm. Di fɔls ɛfɛkt dɛm fɔ fɛn wich, postwa rintigreshɔn ɛn ribrandin kin pruv modɛl dɛm fɔ kɔntɛmporari niolibral gɔvmɛnt bisnɛs we bil pan fawndeshɔn ɔf trɔst rada dan matirial invɛstmɛnt ɛn we de lɛf dɛm vɔnɔrebul to kolaps.

Keywords

traditional medicine; witchcraft; disarmament; brands; violence; spectacle; trust; Sierra Leone; tradishɔnal mɛrɛsin; wichkraft; disamamɛnt; brand; vayolɛns; spɛktakul; trɔst; Salon