Postgraduate students

Immy Standring BA BA Hons

Black Magic and Modernity: Witch Hunting in Modern India

This work encounters the explosion of contemporary witch-hunts taking place in India, as they are perceived and evaluated through discourse. In this study, a witch-hunt is taken to refer to a situation in which a person or group is perceived to be the source of a supernatural ill that has befallen an individual or community. The consequent accusation can result in a scale of violence, ranging from stigma and expulsion to torture and murder.

This research project seeks to explore how witchcraft is understood in Rajasthan, specifically addressing the intersecting pressures of cultural beliefs, modernity, development and the postcolonial state. Utilising varied archives, research will explore the aftermath of witch-hunts, the reflections and representations explicit in texts written after the fact, critically engaging with these depictions as lenses through which we come to know something of the phenomena and the specific operations of power which underwrite them.

This work seeks to cultivate a theory of witch-hunts that describes the complex relationship between witchcraft and the changing social and cultural environments within which it exists. Examining how witchcraft is understood in the contemporary moment, I argue it represents a relevant and intensifying dialogue about the processes of modernisation.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Ben Schonthal, Associate Professor Will Sweetman, and Professor Ruth Fitzgerald.

University of Otago Religious Studies Programme