Children confessing to be taught witchcraft is reported to be an increasing problem in Malawi in East Africa. This thesis analyses mothers’ experiences of the phenomenon in a rural village in the central region of the country. Here women tell stories of children who confess that they have been taken at night by witches to drink blood from Fanta bottles and eat other types of witchcraft food. They are taught how to kill, and are told to ‘eat’ their parents.
On the basis of six months’ fieldwork, I suggest that women’s experiences of the phenomenon, must be understood with reference to concepts of personhood and the constitutive bonds between mothers and their offspring. Their accounts indicate new ways of experiencing integration and marginalization in relation to political, national and global forces that are connected to new strategies concerning children and the introduction of family planning. Child witchcraft brings to the fore anxieties around the development of children at a time when mothers’ relationships to their offspring are a locus of considerable ambivalence. I emphasize that the phenomenon must be studied in its locality, and that account must be taken of cosmological references in order to give the interlocutors a measure of authority in producing an understanding of their own life-worlds, and to appreciate what is at stake in these scenarios. This thesis therefore investigates child witchcraft as the imaginative practice around the dynamics of power in women’s lives.