Texas Tech University

Alumni College Fellow

Paul Bjerk


"Corruption as a Secular Witchcraft in Socialist Tanzania"

Within the broader investigation into the rise and fall of Tanzania's socialist experiment, known in Swahili as Ujamaa, we need to understand how corruption emerged as a problem and how people understood the nature of that particular problem. Corruption marks a violation of recognized ethical norms of political and economic relationships. As such, understanding corruption entails the identification and interpretation of how people conceptualize and communicate ethical norms and their violation. Within the East African context, witchcraft can be understood as a prominent means of talking about the violation of communal norms and ethics. There are many parallels in the way people talk about witchcraft and corruption. Both entail the allegation of ill-gotten wealth through secretive means that are damaging to the interests of the community as a whole. Because of this corruption can be understood as a form of secular witchcraft in the sense that it accomplishes its goal through non-magical, or secular, means, but it has the same equation of personal benefits at the expense of community interests.

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Humanities Center