Albinism: historical evolution and contemporary stigmatisation in South Africa


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Global Change Institute


While the appellation 'Rainbow Nation' was coined to depict South Africa's multiracial society, the country's construction of a democratic and egalitarian society is often punctuated by retrogressive cultural superstitions and practices. One of such superstitions is the myth that an application or consumption of ‘muti’ (traditional potion) mixed with the body part of a person with albinism (PWA) will enhance one’s fortunes. To this end, while some PWA is marginalized, others are abducted, murdered or their body parts harvested for rituals. Although there has been a renaissance of scholarship exploring these practices, there is still a drought of research on the historical origin of this myth and which social systems have sustained it. Drawing on archival records, secondary sources, and interpretive paradigm, the project will explore the evolution of this superstition, the social forces which have fostered it, and the impact of this pejorative myth on the self-confidence of PWA.