Understanding witchcraft

YouTube has a fantastic documentary about the work of the pioneering anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard who was one of the first researchers to try and understanding the psychology of people he was studying.

He is most well known for his 1937 book Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande where he studied the role of magic and prophecy in the lives of the Sudanese Azande people from their perspective.

This was one of the first times that an anthropologist had attempted to understand other cultural beliefs as a coherent system, rather than simply listing the ‘odd’ or ‘irrational’ practices from a Western perspective.

One of his main conclusions was that the Azande were making rational decisions based on different assumptions, in contrast to the general colonial opinion that the people of Africa were somehow ‘backward’.

Evans-Pritchard became one of the founders of social anthropology and was influential in a change of perspective in understanding other cultures.

He was also a keen photographer and there is a fantastic collection of his photos that attempted to record the people he met at the Oxford University Pitt Rivers museum.

The documentary is a great overview of both the man and his work with the Azande and Nuer people in Africa.

Link to documentary ‘Strange Beliefs: Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard’.

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