Sorcery, Poison and Politics: Strategies of Self-Positioning in South Malekula, Vanuatu

Abstract : In this chapter I would like to further explore the anthropology of legitimacy and attempt to combine it with Deleuze and Guattari’s (1983, 1987) suggestion that sorcery embodies the permeability of constant becoming and changing. Despite the distressing situations sorcery often engenders in communities, my aim is to escape the scientific moralism mentioned above and engage local ethnography in more general and constructive considerations. I suggest that sorcery is a place where belonging and being are reconfigured and therefore where notions of the ‘person’, the ‘group’, ‘ethnicity’ or ‘power’ are redefined and adapted to changing historical and material conditions. I thus consider that the particular local conditions trigger and frame the processes of social reconfiguration, but that it is in and through sorcery that the cognitive and social schema of such change can take place, because sorcery is inherently a means of shifting borders. The supernatural points to a not-yet-redefined humanity, and sorcery is a vehicle through which the uncertain contours of humanity are simultaneously expressed and resolved. These hypotheses will be illustrated using the ethnography of recent sorcery accusations in the south of Malekula, one of the main islands in the archipelago of Vanuatu.
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Laurent Dousset. Sorcery, Poison and Politics: Strategies of Self-Positioning in South Malekula, Vanuatu. Miranda Forsyth; Richard Eves. Talking it Through: Responses to Sorcery and Witchcraft Beliefs and Practices in Melanesia, ANU Press, 2015. ⟨halshs-01134079⟩

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