Bewitching Development: Witchcraft and the Reinvention of Development in Neoliberal Kenya

Paperback | September 1, 2008

byJames Howard Smith

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These days, development inspires scant trust in the West. For critics who condemn centralized efforts to plan African societies as latter day imperialism, such plans too closely reflect their roots in colonial rule and neoliberal economics. But proponents of this pessimistic view often ignore how significant this concept has become for Africans themselves. In Bewitching Development, James Howard Smith presents a close ethnographic account of how people in the Taita Hills of Kenya have appropriated and made sense of development thought and practice, focusing on the complex ways that development connects with changing understandings of witchcraft.

Similar to magic, development’s promise of a better world elicits both hope and suspicion from Wataita. Smith shows that the unforeseen changes wrought by development—greater wealth for some, dashed hopes for many more—foster moral debates that Taita people express in occult terms. By carefully chronicling the beliefs and actions of this diverse community—from frustrated youths to nostalgic seniors, duplicitous preachers to thought-provoking witch doctors—BewitchingDevelopment vividly depicts the social life of formerly foreign ideas and practices in postcolonial Africa.

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These days, development inspires scant trust in the West. For critics who condemn centralized efforts to plan African societies as latter day imperialism, such plans too closely reflect their roots in colonial rule and neoliberal economics. But proponents of this pessimistic view often ignore how significant this concept has become for...

James Howard Smith is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California, Davis.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:September 1, 2008Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226764583

ISBN - 13:9780226764580

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Table of Contents

Preface

Chapter One: Bewitching Development: The Disintegration and Reinvention of Development in Kenya

Chapter Two: I Still Exist! Taita Historicity

Chapter Three: Development’s Other: Witchcraft as Development through the Looking Glass

Chapter Four: “Each Household Is a Kingdom”: Development and Witchcraft at Home

Chapter Five: “Dot Com Will Die Seriously!” Spatiotemporal Miscommunication and Competing Sovereignties in Taita Thought and Ritual

Chapter Six: Development, Witchcraft, and the Sovereign Child

Chapter Seven: Democracy Victorious: Exorcising Witchcraft from Development

Chapter Eight: Conclusion: Tempopolitics, Or Why Development Should Not be Defined as the Improvement of Living Standards

Notes

References

Index

Editorial Reviews

"Smith's book valuably portrays the moral mess of local social development in Kenya (and elsewhere in Africa). . . . A book that should be read by all dedicated Africanists."