David Gordon (Bowdoin, History) on his recent book Invisible Agents: Spirits in a Central African History. Gordon explores how and why spirits and discourses about spirits inspired social movements and influenced historical change, from precolonial Bemba chieftaincies and 1930s Watchtower millenarianism to the postcolonial state’s humanism and Pentecostalism under Kaunda and Chiluba, respectively. Gordon closes by noting the effervescence of Zambian studies today. (Note: the interview was recorded via Skype.)
Adam Ashforth (Univ. of Michigan) on “witchcraft” in rural Central and urban Southern Africa. Discusses connections with colonial and postcolonial power and authority; gender; spiritual insecurity and religious enthusiasm; law, culture, and HIV/AIDS in Malawi; “anti-anti-witchcraft,” and the “serious laughter” of photographer Santu Mofokeng.
Anthropologist Richard Werbner (University of Manchester) on the similarity between Freud and African wisdom diviners, ethnographic filmmaking in southern Africa, and the place of ‘Holy Hustlers’ (pentecostal churches and prophecy in Botswana) — the subject of his latest book — in the public sphere.