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Uncanny objects and the fear of the familiar: Hiding from Akan witches in New York City

Parish, Jane

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Abstract

This article examines the cosmology and secret practices of West African traditional priests in New York City in preventing the spread of witchcraft, an evil invisible spirit transmitted between female members of the Akan matrilineage. Explored is an uncanny dynamic as everyday habitus becomes increasingly strange in the world of a young Ghanaian woman in the Bronx, who has become petrified of insinuations of witchcraft from close family members. In trying to hide the young woman from infection by her fellow witches, Akan priests attempt to ‘capture’ her habits and everyday routines, calling upon the iconic magic of New York City in order to ‘misplace’ familiarity within the anonymity of Manhattan. In this process, the transmission of the witch’s spirit to the intended victim is disturbed as the victim’s life and things are moved. Nowhere to be found, the witch shifts her attention to other victims.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 10, 2017
Publication Date Aug 1, 2017
Journal Journal of Material Culture
Print ISSN 1359-1835
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 1
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/1359183517725100
Keywords Akan witchcraft, uncanny, New York, objects
Publisher URL https://doi.org/10.1177/1359183517725100

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