La Sorcellerie en Mélanésie : Élicitation de l’inacceptable

Abstract : Elicitation of Unacceptable. — Sorcery has remained an important issue in Melanesia countries, in particular in Papua New Guinea and in Vanuatu. It has become a concern for policy makers, legislators and NGOs, and is considered a central practice among many local peoples. Researchers interested in the question of sorcery tend to compartmentalize the analysis favoring an approach that considers sorcery to be an indicator of economic and political postcolo- nial changes. Others, less frequently, study witchcraft as being disconnected from its his- torical and political contexts and attempt to analyze its rationale in terms of cultural representations. The discussion of a recent case of sorcery in the south of the island of Malekula in Vanuatu shows that these approaches are in fact complementary. A clear distinction between magic and sorcery is difficult in Vanuatu because the technical means available to both are identical. The basis for such a distinction is rather the act of accusation, that is, the verbalization of alle- ged practices that, while drawing their means from a recognized and acceptable repertoire, are thought to constitute a form of resistance to an emerging social order. These verbaliza- tions, which consist of elicitations of forma- lized values, are moments where being together and being alike are revealed through the distinction of what is acceptable from what is not. Elicitations are here opportuni- ties for explanation, for confirmation and for transformation of social values that define membership and expose the collective. In this context, accusations of sorcery and the identification of alleged sorcerers become simultaneously a means to act on, and a way of thinking the world. It is because sorcery allows all of this that not only has it remai- ned relevant in Melanesian countries and beyond, but that it also continues to be so central to the lives of the people of Malekula.
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Laurent Dousset. La Sorcellerie en Mélanésie : Élicitation de l’inacceptable. L'Homme - Revue française d'anthropologie, Éditions de l'EHESS 2016, 2 (218), pp.85-115. ⟨halshs-01319611⟩

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