Witchhunts and (real) ritual murder, in Africa and India – roundup of recent news

April 26, 2008

Some interesting speculation: Does Climate Change Mean More Witch Hunts? by Freakonomics, New York Times Blogs, NY, 4/25/2008:

Times columnist Nick Kristof recently highlighted economic research showing that climate change may be driving up the rate of executions of suspected witches in East Africa.

Tough times in the Congo may have been behind the recent witchcraft panic there, where police arrested 13 people accused of using black magic to shrink men’s penises.

University of Chicago economist Emily Oster also found a surge in witch hunts [PDF] during Europe’s “little ice age,” from the 1500’s to late 1700’s.

Dubner and Levitt also wrote of some other surprising climate results over the ages, ranging from property crime, to life expectancy, to civil war.

What other unexpected consequences, whether economic, social, political, or otherwise, should we expect to see from climate change?

I suppose this is possible. Economic hardship does tend to lead to scapegoating. Here in the West, for example, it has been noted that indicents of racist violence tend to increase during economic recessions.

Meanwhile, still more news of full-blown witchhunts in Africa and India:

On the other hand, another ongoing problem, in parts of Africa, is “witch doctors” who murder people for their body parts. The latest stories on this have to do with albinos being murdered in Tanzania:

When calling attention to this sort of thing in the West, there’s always a danger of fueling racism. So, perhaps I need to point out that the more educated folks in these countries are taking a stand against these practices.


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