Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Witchcraft and a Life in the New South Africa

$67.99 (C)

Part of The International African Library

  • Date Published: October 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107016286

$ 67.99 (C)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Witchcraft and a Life in the New South Africa reconstructs the biography of an ordinary South African, Jimmy Mohale. Born in 1964, Jimmy came of age in rural South Africa during apartheid, then studied at university and worked as a teacher during the anti-apartheid struggle. In 2005, Jimmy died from an undiagnosed sickness, probably related to AIDS. Jimmy gradually came to see the unanticipated misfortune he experienced as a result of his father's witchcraft and sought remedies from diviners rather than from biomedical doctors. This study casts new light on scholarly understandings of the connections between South African politics, witchcraft, and the AIDS pandemic.

    • Methodologically innovative for its combination of biography and ethnography
    • The analysis of contemporary witchcraft illuminates several important questions, namely: continuities with earlier cosmologies in modern life; themes of material inequalities in illness and death; and the historic and ongoing role of the AIDS pandemic in South African society
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "A deeply learned, thoroughly researched and yet surprisingly accessible book."
    The Times Literary Supplement

    "In this biographical narrative, Niehaus has given [a] most detailed and profound reflection of one man's perspective on witchcraft and life in New South Africa."
    Jana Admine, Anthropological Notebooks

    "Isak Niehaus's Witchcraft and a Life in the New South Africa is an elegantly written but disturbing book. Breaking the mould of much of the scholarship on witchcraft in South Africa, and that of Niehaus's previous work, it steers clear of macropolitical and economic analyses in favour of a biographical approach … I would highly recommend Witchcraft and a Life in the New South Africa for the fine-grained, human picture it paints of those who believe in witchcraft, for its honesty in dealing with the difficulties of fieldwork and for the ways in which it shifts the debate about witchcraft from a "nativist … [to] a cosmopolitan enterprise"."
    Ilana van Wyk, Anthropology Southern Africa

    "This is a biography, but the ethnographic perspective is apparent in the way Niehaus draws on his knowledge of the region's customs, social relations, and cosmology to contextualize Jimmy's narrative. This work is most relevant to scholars and graduate students in anthropology, though it would also be of interest to historians, political scientists, and public health policy makers … [Readers] cannot help being moved by Jimmy's story and the gravity of witchcraft's manifestations in Africa today."
    Douglas Falen, American Anthropologist

    'This is a powerful tale of one man’s gradual conviction that witchcraft is behind his misfortune. As in Adam Ashforth’s Madumo, a man bewitched (2000), South African witchcraft is elucidated through biography. … This is a moving and insightful account whose biographical form is used to compelling effect.' Maxim Bolt, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2012
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107016286
    • length: 259 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 158 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus. 2 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Early experiences, initial suspicions
    3. Becoming a man
    4. 'Then I did not believe'
    5. 'My second initiation'
    6. 'I see things differently now'
    7. Seeking revenge
    8. AIDS and Oedipus
    9. Reconstructing an ideal life
    10. Last words.

  • Author

    Isak Niehaus, Brunel University
    Isak Niehaus is currently Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Brunel University. He is the author of Witchcraft, Power and Politics: Exploring the Occult in the South African Lowveld (2001) and Magic! AIDS Review 2009 with Fraser G. McNeill. He is a member of the council of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Niehaus has done extensive fieldwork in South African rural areas.

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.