The occult does not exist: A response to Terence Ranger

G. ter Haar, S. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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In recent years, it has become common for academic writers to use 'the occult' as an analytical category to which are assigned various types of mystical belief and activity that are quite widespread in Africa, including those often described as 'magic' and 'witchcraft'. It is notable that all these concepts generally go undefined. The present article argues that much of the current academic vocabulary used to describe and analyse the invisible world that many Africans believe to exist is tainted by an intellectual history associated with colonialism. Instead, we propose that much African thought and action related to the invisible world should be considered in terms of religion, with the latter being defined contextually as a belief in the existence of an invisible world, distinct but not separate from the visible one, that is home to spiritual beings with effective powers over the material world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-412
Number of pages14
Issue number03
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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