Devil worship, black magic, and witchcraft have long captivated anthropologists as well as the general public. In this volume, Jean La Fontaine explores the intersection of expert and lay understandings of evil and the cultural forms that evil assumes. The chapters touch on public scares about devil-worship, misconceptions about human sacrifice and the use of body parts in healing practices, and mistaken accusations of children practicing witchcraft. Together, these cases demonstrate that comparison is a powerful method of cultural understanding, but warns of the dangers and mistaken conclusions that untrained ideas about other ways of life can lead to.
About the Author
Jean La Fontaine is a Research Fellow of Inform and Professor Emeritus at the London School of Economics, where she taught for nearly twenty years. She received her PhD from the University of Cambridge and has chaired the Association of Social Anthropologists, and served as President of the Royal Anthropological Institute.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Understanding the Other
Chapter 1. Hidden Enemies: Evil at the end of the Millennium
Chapter 2. Concepts of Evil, Witchcraft and the Sexual Abuse of Children in Modern England
Chapter 3. Ritual Murder?
Chapter 4. Magic and medicine: The Torso in the Thames
Chapter 5. Child Witches in London: Tradition and change in religious belief
Chapter 6. The morality of childhood
Chapter 7. Pastors and witches
Chapter 8. London’s witch children
Conclusion: Continuities and changes