The Witch is not a Witch: The Dynamics and Contestations of Witchcraft Accusations in Northern Ghana


Dr. Leo Igwe

Research Area:


The growing visibility of witchcraft accusation in post-colonial Africa has led to a renewed interest in African witchcraft and magic. Extant studies have assumed that accusations are one-directional processes that are mainly determined by the actions and reactions of accusers. These studies have portrayed accusing parties as active ascribers of the witchcraft label and accused persons as victims and passive recipients. Witchcraft accusation is postulated as a phenomenon that elicits resignation and compliance from alleged witches.

However, this does not always happen. Accused persons are actively involved in processing allegations of witchcraft because they react to such designations and exert influence on the process. Accused persons reject, protest, contest and challenge imputations of causing occult harm. Alleged witches take several measures and mobilize resources to overturn the witchcraft label. Using the ethnographic research methodology and the concepts of legal pluralism, forum shopping, and desire, belief and opportunities, this study will investigate if and how the accused become active agents in the process, paying critical attention to the social, political and economic contexts where alleged witches actively resist and contest allegations.