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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Witchcraft or Madness? The Amandiki of Zululand, 1894-1914
Author:Parle, Julie
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic terms:South Africa
Subjects:spirit possession
History and Exploration
Health and Nutrition
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
Women's Issues
Cultural Roles
Health, Nutrition, and Medicine
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3557412
Abstract:In southern Africa today, as elsewhere, expressions of psychological distress elicit a variety of explanatory frameworks and responses that continue to reflect the different discourses and practices of medicine, magic and religion. The assertion that these positions are historically constructed and contingent is an important theme in the study of healing, both of mind and of body. We know relatively little about African conceptions of mental illness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but in researching the social history of mental health in Natal and Zululand, South Africa, investigation of one phenomenon - the 'epidemic' of 'indiki' spirit possession in Zululand from the 1890s to 1914 - has proved particularly illuminating. It shows that African concepts of mental illness were in a state of flux at this time as therapies for psychological distress adapted in the face of the entrenchment of colonialism, Christianity and a cash economy. Furthermore, African mental health strategies were not always as inclusive as has sometimes been suggested by scholars. This had very real consequences for a number of women - known as the 'amandiki' - who were tried by the colonial State for the crime of witchcraft between 1894 and 1914. As the ensuing court cases revealed, colonial psychiatry was not simply or necessarily a blunt tool for social control. Instead, changing Western concepts surrounding, and responses to, criminal responsibility and mental illness posed legal problems for the colonial authorities in their attempts to distinguish between witchcraft, hysteria and spirit possession. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]