“Kill all the sorcerers:” The interconnections between sorcery, violence, war and peace in Bougainville

A/Prof. Miranda Forsyth1
1Australian National University, Acton, Australia

Recent fieldwork into sorcery accusations and related violence in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, revealed that many see the violence as linked to experiences during Bougainville’s long civil war, fought almost two decades earlier.  This paper discusses the nature and strengths of these connections between war and peace, exploring how wartime experiences legitimated such violence and how this violence has continued in the absence of strong peacetime institutions of health, education and justice.  Drawing on Braithwaite and D’Costa’s framework of cascades of violence, it also tracks the ways in which sorcery discourses, practices and beliefs cascade to war, playing a variety of roles such as triggering local conflict, legitimating the elimination of unwanted individuals, increasing insecurity and acting as tools of both psychological and spiritual warfare.  Methodological issues raised by the study of violence driven by magical or spiritual worldviews will also be discussed.


Miranda Forsyth is an Associate Professor at RegNet School of Regulation and Global Governance, College of Asia & the Pacific at the Australian National University.


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