Children accused of witchcraft in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Between structural and symbolic violence

  • Edoardo Quaretta Università della Calabria / Università di Torino, Italy


In this paper I consider the phenomenon of the “child-witches” in Lubumbashi (Katanga, DRC) as the result of the intertwine of two dynamics: the accusation of children within the sphere of the family and the large number of street children in Congolese cities. On the one hand, witchcraft accusations within the family tend to work in two ways: as a mode of childrenʼs subjugation, exerted especially by pastors in neopentecostal churches; and as a “pragmatic of uncertainty” that allow Congolese families to deal with uncertainties of life, such as sickness, suffering, marital problems, failure, and death. On the other hand, children in the streets of Lubumbashi suggest a witchcraft discourse linked to the symbolic violence that should be read in terms of boundaries, margins, and liminality: street children are associated with witches because they have transgressed basic social norms and they live out of the ordinary social networks (kinship, family, school). In this vein, I propose an ethnographic approach which takes into account the multiform feature of the “child-witches” highlighting the importance of the everyday practices and ordinary objects in family ties definition and witchcraft accusations.


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Author Biography

Edoardo Quaretta, Università della Calabria / Università di Torino, Italy

assegnista di ricerca presso il dipertimento di Studi Umanistici dell'Università della Calabria;

docente a contratto in African History and Development presso il dipartimento di Culture, Politica e Società dell'Università di Torino.

How to Cite
Quaretta, Edoardo. 2019. “Children Accused of Witchcraft in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Between Structural and Symbolic Violence”. Anuac 8 (2), 61-82.