African Science

Witchcraft, Vodun, and Healing in Southern Benin

Reddit icon
e-mail icon
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
LinkedIn icon
Douglas J. Falen
  • Madison, WI: 
    University of Wisconsin Press
    , November
     2018.
     240 pages.
     $79.95.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9780299318901.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Kayla Kauffman forthcoming.

Description

In this sensitive and personal investigation into Benin's occult world, Douglas J. Falen wrestles with the challenges of encountering a reality in which magic, science, and the Vodun religion converge into a single universal force. He takes seriously his Beninese interlocutors' insistence that the indigenous phenomenon known as àzě ("witchcraft") is an African science, credited with fantastic and productive deeds, such as teleportation and supernatural healing. 

Although the Beninese understanding of àzě reflects positive scientific properties in its use of specialized knowledge to harness nature's energy and realize economic success, its boundless power is inherently ambivalent because it can corrupt its users, who dispense death and destruction. Witches and healers are equivalent to supervillains and superheroes, locked in epic battles over malevolent and benevolent human desires. Beninese people's discourse about such mystical confrontations expresses a philosophy of moral duality and cosmic balance. Falen demonstrates how a deep engagement with another lived reality opens our minds and contributes to understanding across cultural difference.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Douglas J. Falen is Professor of Anthropology at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. He is the author of Power and Paradox: Authority, Insecurity, and Creativity in Fon Gender Relations.

Add New Comment

Reading Religion welcomes comments from AAR members, and you may leave a comment below by logging in with your AAR Member ID and password. Please read our policy on commenting.

Log in to post comments