African Science: Witchcraft, Vodun, and Healing in Southern Benin by Douglas J. Falen
Requirements: .PDF reader, 2 MB
Overview: In this sensitive and personal investigation into Benin’s occult world, Douglas J. Falen wrestles with the challenges of encountering a reality in which magic, science, and the Vodun religion converge into a single universal force. He takes seriously his Beninese interlocutors insistence that the indigenous phenomenon known as aze (‘witchcraft’) is an African science, credited with fantastic and productive deeds, such as teleportation and supernatural healing.
Although the Beninese understanding of aze reflects positive scientific properties in its use of specialized knowledge to harness nature’s energy and realize economic success, its boundless power is inherently ambivalent because it can corrupt its users, who dispense death and destruction. Witches and healers are equivalent to supervillains and superheroes, locked in epic battles over malevolent and benevolent human desires. Beninese people’s discourse about such mystical confrontations expresses a philosophy of moral duality and cosmic balance. Falen demonstrates how a deep engagement with another lived reality opens our minds and contributes to understanding across cultural difference.
"A stunning achievement in the anthropology of religion. Weaving together narrative and analysis, Falen provides a gripping account of the imponderables that constitute the occult in Benin. He demonstrates how African science can refine our comprehension of fidelity and betrayal, health and illness, science and religion, and life and death – the philosophical themes that define our humanity." – Paul Stoller, author of In Sorcery’s Shadow
Genre: Non-Fiction > Faith, Beliefs & Philosophy