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Tracing Topoi: Causality in Witch Construction, Divination and Sukuma Magic

(2011)
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Abstract
Causality as an explanatory framework works at the micro level where persons or things give rise to new events (effects). The framework dominates wherever this micro level of interactions is the model to explain events, for instance in science or witchcraft. But can causality account for the dynamics of macrosystems? A system ‘relates’ to (rather than causes) its parts. Magical concoctions ‘relate’ well rather than cause effects with the certainty of tools or natural laws. So this macro level is the topos (common place for meaning) for users of magic/ medicine. Magical concoctions have a goal (protection, attack, love, cure,…) but are not instruments, like a hoe for cultivation. That is why their ingredients contain symbols, additives (shingila), while a hoe does not. The topos of magic is not causality but the contingency of the gift, which adds propitiation, placation, attention to the expertise invested: you count on your gift being accepted and the recipient (the world, nature, gods,…) to return the favor but you cannot be sure. Magical concoctions have a goal (protection, attack, love, cure,…) but are not instruments, like a hoe for cultivation. That is why their ingredients contain symbols, additives (shingila), while a hoe does not. The topos of magic is not causality but the contingency of the gift, which adds propitiation, placation, attention to the expertise invested: you count on your gift being accepted and the recipient (the world, nature, gods,…) to return the favor but you cannot be sure. The topos of magic is different from the topos of bewitchment and witch-constructs. There the central principle is causality. We have to accept the existence of (and potential shifts between) a plurality of topoi in any culture. Not essentialize ‘West=…’, ‘Africa=…’, etc. Thus we can differentiate (and relate) seemingly similar practices: witch suspicion, magic, divination, spirit possession. And associate seemingly opposite practices such as witch construction and positivism but belonging to the same (anthropic) topos.

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
Stroeken, Koenraad. Tracing Topoi: Causality in Witch Construction, Divination and Sukuma Magic. ZiF, 2011.
APA
Stroeken, K. (2011). Tracing Topoi: Causality in Witch Construction, Divination and Sukuma Magic. Presented at the Interdisciplinary Workshop: Magic in Medicine, Bielefeld.
Chicago author-date
Stroeken, Koenraad. 2011. “Tracing Topoi: Causality in Witch Construction, Divination and Sukuma Magic.” In . Bielefeld: ZiF.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Stroeken, Koenraad. 2011. “Tracing Topoi: Causality in Witch Construction, Divination and Sukuma Magic.” In . Bielefeld: ZiF.
Vancouver
1.
Stroeken K. Tracing Topoi: Causality in Witch Construction, Divination and Sukuma Magic. In Bielefeld: ZiF; 2011.
IEEE
[1]
K. Stroeken, “Tracing Topoi: Causality in Witch Construction, Divination and Sukuma Magic,” presented at the Interdisciplinary Workshop: Magic in Medicine, Bielefeld, 2011.
@inproceedings{8562912,
  abstract     = {{Causality as an explanatory framework works at the micro level where persons or things give rise to new events (effects). The framework dominates wherever this micro level of interactions is the model to explain events, for instance in science or witchcraft. But can causality account for the dynamics of macrosystems? A system ‘relates’ to (rather than causes) its parts. Magical concoctions ‘relate’ well rather than cause effects with the certainty of tools or natural laws. So this macro level is the topos (common place for meaning) for users of magic/ medicine.
Magical concoctions have a goal (protection, attack, love, cure,…) but are not instruments, like a hoe for cultivation. That is why their ingredients contain symbols, additives (shingila), while a hoe does not. The topos of magic is not causality but the contingency of the gift, which adds propitiation, placation, attention to the expertise invested: you count on your gift being accepted and the recipient (the world, nature, gods,…) to return the favor but you cannot be sure. 
Magical concoctions have a goal (protection, attack, love, cure,…) but are not instruments, like a hoe for cultivation. That is why their ingredients contain symbols, additives (shingila), while a hoe does not. The topos of magic is not causality but the contingency of the gift, which adds propitiation, placation, attention to the expertise invested: you count on your gift being accepted and the recipient (the world, nature, gods,…) to return the favor but you cannot be sure. 
The topos of magic is different from the topos of bewitchment and witch-constructs. There the central principle is causality.
We have to accept the existence of (and potential shifts between) a plurality of topoi in any culture. Not essentialize ‘West=…’, ‘Africa=…’, etc.
Thus we can differentiate (and relate) seemingly similar practices: witch suspicion, magic, divination, spirit possession. And associate seemingly opposite practices such as witch construction and positivism but belonging to the same (anthropic) topos.}},
  author       = {{Stroeken, Koenraad}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  location     = {{Bielefeld}},
  publisher    = {{ZiF}},
  title        = {{Tracing Topoi: Causality in Witch Construction, Divination and Sukuma Magic}},
  url          = {{https://www.uni-bielefeld.de/(en)/ZIF/FG/2011Cognition/events/12-12-Hagmayer.html}},
  year         = {{2011}},
}