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Title: Magic and war: the role of ritual and traditional belief in the Kamajor civil defence forces in Sierra Leone and beyond
Author: Wlodarczyk , Nathalie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2725 9071
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis argues that magic contributes significantly to the social and cultural context in many contemporary African settings in which acts of violence and war are carried out and interpreted. It can be understood as appropriate and logical practice, as opposed to a marker of irrationality and backwardness. To do this the thesis (a) explores the actual roles played by magic in contemporary African warfare, and (b) considers this in relation to the way we think about war and the practices that underpin it. Part I (chapters 2-4) argues the case for engaging with magic as a serious influence on wartime behaviour and suggests a conceptual toolkit for doing so, drawing on Pierre Bourdieu's work on the formation of practice. It shows that magic and traditional beliefs are still relevant to political and social relations in Africa in peacetime and war. It also suggests a set of tools for thinking about magic and warfare without succumbing to either purely functionalist or relativistic explanations. Part II (chapters 5-8) applies these tools to the case study of the Kamajor civil defence forces in Sierra Leone, arguing that by looking at the interconnected dimensions of habitus, field, capital and interest (borrowed from Bourdieu) we can understand how the Kamajor's use of magic was both logical and appropriate. This is done by looking at the context of the war, the cosmology of people who joined and interacted with the Kamajors, and how these made magic a valuable resource for mobilisation as well as battlefield tactics. Part III concludes the thesis and argues that thinking about magic, and in extension cultural practice more broadly, in relation to Bourdieu's notion of practice formation helps us sharpen our analysis of warfare in a way that can be applied also beyond the study of magic and Africa.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available