Texts Bewitched: Reading the Supernatural in South Africa


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Department of English


In South African communities, belief in and engagement with the supernatural often subtend the ways in which people interact with the phenomenal world and, socially, with each other. This “occult cosmology” thus emerges as a powerful organising principle in South African society. Moving away from a persistent tendency to reduce the occult to a form of “tradition” and “superstition,” this research builds on established work that shows how animist worldviews and autochthonous networks of meaning comfortably exist in tandem with the fruits of modernity. The occult, as a knowledge paradigm with its own logic, inhabits and sometimes exceeds the forms that seek to contain and represent it. The current research thus seeks to explore how these issues are mapped in examples from South African literature, television and film, media and jurisprudence.