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Rome, 30 th November – 1st December 2012



P.le A. Moro, 5  – 00185 Roma

Rationale of the workshop

Medicine, religion, witchcraft are three apparently different domains of ideas, knowledge, practices and beliefs, as well as three different domains of anthropological investigation characterized by rather independent objectives, methods and theoretical frameworks.

Medicine and religion have often been tackled together or at least approached with similar goals, and interconnected in the observation and analysis. Traditional medicine and witchcraft have been often superimposed or confused by colonial powers and practices, and even today the popular discourse confuses them. Religion and witchcraft show some links both in practices and beliefs that have been explored only partially. The anthropological interest in these three fields of investigation is almost always intermingled with questions and arguments of political, economic, psychological nature that dealt more with each field separately than with the complex web of interrelations among them.

We wish to propose an integrated method of study which may give the opportunity of working in the perspective of analyzing that complex web, and producing a new and deeper anthropological awareness and capability in the interpretation of events, processes and representations implying the three categories and fields, as well as their socio-psychological, economic-political and symbolic backgrounds. The workshop aims at contributing to the construction of such a new perspective through the proposal of developing analyses and discussions that put witchcraft at the centre in order to reflect on its reciprocal interrelations with medicine, on one  side, and religion, on the other, keeping the system of relations between medicine and religion as an empirical and theoretical horizon.

Witchcraft turned again as a topical subject since the late Eighties of last Century mainly for its links with wealth and power, and in relation to its supposed  universality within the globalization process, giving rise consequently to a strong interest in the postmodern wave, highly influenced by the foucaultian theses. The hidden risk in this intellectual trend lies in the allurement of proposing again, even though in terms radically new, the issue of the function of witchcraft as a factor of social cohesion in the context of the practices and representations in a globalized world. Therefore, the understanding of the deep nature of witchcraft, and its mysterious and enigmatic principles of reality, and its links with the material and spiritual aspects of reality – culturally and scientifically represented by medicine and religion – runs the risk of escape completely.


1. Aria Dr.Matteo (PostDoc, Sapienza University of Rome)

2. Bellagamba Prof. Alice (Professor of Anthropology, University of Milan Bicocca)

3. Casciano Davide (MA student, Sapienza University of Rome)

4. Ceriana Mayneri Dr. Andrea (PostDoc, Université Catholique de Louvain)

5. Costantini Osvaldo (PhD student, Sapienza University of Rome)

6. Ekem Rev. Prof. John David K. (Academic Dean, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon,

Accra, Ghana)

7. Lupo Prof. Alessandro (Professor of Anthropology, Sapienza University of Rome)

8. Meyer Prof. Birgit (Professor of Religious Studies, University of Utrecht)

9. Pavanello Prof. Mariano (Professor of Anthropology, Sapienza University of Rome)

10. Schirripa Prof. Pino (Professor of Anthropology, Sapienza University of Rome)

11. Vasconi Dr. Elisa (PhD, University of Siena)

Department of Religious Studies and Theology, Trans 14, 3512 JK Utrecht, Netherlands;

tel. +31302533838.

Webpage:; co-editor of Material Religion


Friday 30

th November 2012, morning – 1st Session (Witchcraft:

epistemological issues)


Mariano Pavanello, Birgit Meyer, Opening of the workshop


Matteo Aria, Witchcraft, biopower and extraordinary anthropology


Mariano Pavanello, A hypothesis on the nature of African witchcraft

12.30 debate

13.00 lunch

Friday 30

th November 2012, afternoon – 2nd Session (Medicine, Religion,

Witchcraft in ethnographic perspective)


Andrea Ceriana Mayneri, Sorcellerie, enfance et abandon en Afrique



Alessandro Lupo, Patients, mystical journeys and health care:

negotiating therapeutic paths in Mexican contexts of medical pluralism


Pino Schirripa, Where Christianity is ancient. Pentecostalism, evil in the

world and break with the past in Ethiopia


Osvaldo Costantini, B Yesus Sïm (in the name of Jesus). Some notes

about Eritrean and Ethiopian Pentecostal churches in Rome (Italy)

17.00 debate

18.00 closing

20.00 dinner at gazebo restaurant of

Casa dell’Aviatore” (v.le Università, 20)

Saturday 1

st December 2012, morning – 3rd Session (Medicine, Religion,

Witchcraft in politics and history )


Rev. John David K. Ekem Medicine, Religion and Healing. An African



Alice Bellagamba, Politics and African witchcraft: a long term discussion


Elisa Vasconi, Witchcraft, Traditional Medicine and Colonial Rule in



Davide Casciano, Pentecostalism, HIV and Witchcraft in Nigeria

11.30 debate


Birgit Meyer, Conclusions

13.00 closing

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