‘Child sacrifice in Uganda? The BBC, ‘witch doctors’ and anthropologists’

Caplan, Pat. 2010. ‘Child sacrifice in Uganda? The BBC, ‘witch doctors’ and anthropologists’. Anthropology Today, 26(2), pp. 4-7. ISSN 0268-540X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article discusses both several recent BBC broadcasts on allegations of ‘child sacrifice’ in Uganda and criticisms of the programmes by a number of British anthropologists. It pursues the idea that both the broadcasts and the criticisms raise two sets of crucial questions: the first is in regard to the interpretation of alleged ritual killings in contemporary Africa and the effects of their representation on lay audiences, both non-African and African; the second concerns media representations of Africa and public anthropology. Anthropologists (and indeed scholars from other disciplines such as history) have a lot of expertise to offer in terms of understanding the occult in many societies, including contextualising this realm in terms of historical processes and material concerns and suggesting links between apparently disparate issues. In this way, they can they can sometimes go beyond surface manifestations, offer alternative explanations and show that things are not always the way they first seem. However, in order to play an effective public role in this regard, anthropologists need to be willing to grapple pro-actively with such matters of public concern, not least by engaging constructively with the media.

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Date Deposited:

16 May 2016 16:17

Last Modified:

16 Jun 2017 10:59

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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