Accepted paper:

« No witch, no village » : the therapeutic role of sorcery (and countersorcery) in Arakan (Burma)

Authors:

Céline Coderey (IRSEA (Marseille))

Paper short abstract:

Based on my fieldworks in Arakan (Burma), my paper focuses on the important role played by sorcery for the inhabitants of that area. It aims to show that the persistence of sorcery largely relies on the fact that it allows the handling of anxiety and incertitude at various levels : therapeutic, social, psychological, religious.

Paper long abstract:

Based on my fieldworks in Arakan (Burma), my paper shows the important role played by sorcery for the inhabitants of that area. This importance is attested by two facts : 1. Sorcerers are a cause of misfortune and illness which is often put forward; 2. Many individuals act as « anti-sorcerers », i. e. as exorcists. Villagers often have recourse to them in order to be protected or freed from sorcery aggressions. The persistence of sorcery largely relies on the fact that it allows the handling of anxiety and incertitude at various levels : therapeutic, social, psychological, religious. First, sorcery represents an important component of therapeutic itineraries, which is more and more true as the availability and the efficacy of medical care are largely insufficient especially in the field of mental health. In other terms, it gives a sense to and provides a way to act on symptoms that cant be handle by other means. Second, sorcery provides an instrument of social control because it legitimizes the temporary rebellion of oppressed individuals as well as the strengthening of destabilized social relationships. Moreover, sorcery allows the handling of anxiety and incertitude arising in a competitive context, by acting as an instrument of social manipulation as well as a mean of fate control. Finally, by embodying the Bad, the Impure ad the Disorder, sorcery provides - through the fight that is taken against it - a mean to restore and strengthen the Good, the Pure, the Order and, by doing so, the hegemony of Buddhism representing them.

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Occult economies in Asia: malevolent magic and supernatural aggressions