Magic And Warfare: Appearance and Reality in Contemporary African Conflict and Beyond

Hardcover | October 15, 2009

byNathalie Wlodarczyk

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This study explores the roles played by magic in contemporary African warfare, specifically through the case of Sierra Leone, to assess its impact on behaviour in conflict. In the last two decades, rituals designed to imbue people with supernatural power and make them immune to enemy fire have been seen on post-Cold War battlefields across Africa. Wlodarczyk argues that the use of magic in warfare can be understood, not as an illustration of how Africa’s reality is qualitatively different from the West’s, but as appropriate and logical. Here, a conceptual framework is suggested for analysing culturally alien practices more broadly, to inform approaches to civilian and military intervention not only in Africa but in conflict theatres around the world.

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This study explores the roles played by magic in contemporary African warfare, specifically through the case of Sierra Leone, to assess its impact on behaviour in conflict. In the last two decades, rituals designed to imbue people with supernatural power and make them immune to enemy fire have been seen on post-Cold War battlefields ac...

Nathalie Wlodarczyk is Deputy Director of Global Forecasting at Exclusive Analysis, where she is responsible for all analysis views and forecasts on war, terrorism and civil unrest. She holds a PhD in War Studies from King’s College London.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:208 pages, 8.39 × 5.67 × 0.62 inPublished:October 15, 2009Publisher:Palgrave MacmillanLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0230621023

ISBN - 13:9780230621022

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Table of Contents

Introduction * ‘Magic’ in Contemporary Africa * Spirits in Battle * Thinking About Practice in Warfare *Notes on the case study * The Sierra Leone Civil War and Civil Defence * Spiritual Context as Habitus and Capital * Creating Magic Soldiers – Kamajor Mobilisation and Initiation * The Kamajors in Battle – Magic, Tactics and Success * Local Practice and the Wider World of Warfare

Editorial Reviews

“Fascinating. Sierra Leone’s war has been extensively documented by journalists, historians, political scientists, and anthropologists. Quite apart from its theoretical intervention into strategic military studies, Magic and Warfare is a valuable record of one of the least understood parts of this war. Wlodarczyk’s careful reading of the existing literature, coupled with her own ethnographic work among the war’s participants, lend credibility to her claim that understanding social and historical contexts goes a long way toward rendering intelligible the seemingly inexplicable practices of many belligerents in today’s wars.”—International Journal of African Historical Studies“Wlodarczyk has built on the by-now considerable body of work on the importance of belief systems in African politics to offer a systematic analysis of the role of ‘magic’ in the Sierra Leone conflict. Making good use of the extensive evidence gathered by the trials on war crimes and her own field research, she provides a detailed account of the origins, organization and behaviour of the Kamajor militias that formed the core of the so-called Civil Defence Forces, which fought the rebel Revolutionary United Front. This book is a perceptive analysis of the nature of violence in contemporary Africa, which has relevance well beyond the continent. And it reinforces the argument that it is impossible plausibly to interpret political events in settings different from ours without an understanding of the cultural context within which they take place.”—Patrick Chabal, International Affairs"Researchers who specialize in military studies are a pretty hard-headed bunch, unlikely to spend much time thinking about the worlds of spirits.  If they read this book, as they should, they may start to do otherwise. Wlodarczyck’s achievement is to show the relevance of spiritual matters for military and political affairs in many parts of the world, concentrating on Sierra Leone.  I hope this book will alert many people to an aspect of warfare that is likely to grow in importance."--Stephen Ellis, Desmond Tutu Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam “Nathalie Wlodarczyk has done a stunning job bringing the immensely complicated, sensitive and intriguing subject of magic to the academic field. From a sound theoretical base, this book brings empirical research and meticulous insight into Sierra Leone’s war and its Kamajor fighters. Magic and Warfare combines a fascinating intellectual adventure with an engaging clarity that steers the reader to a greater understanding not only of the Kamajors and the war, but of the nature of belief and its relationship with action.”—Zoe Marriage, Senior Lecturer in Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London