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Academic evening

Witchcraft beliefs and economic development



The belief in the supernatural is almost universal across societies. For centuries, monotheistic religions have shaped the daily reality and economic environment people live in. While beliefs such as Protestantism have been argued to be conducive to economic growth and capitalism, the belief in witchcraft has been hypothesized to pose an obstacle to economic development. This is sometimes referred to as the “levelling effect”, relating witchcraft to more egalitarian but poorer societies. However, we know relatively little about how the belief in witchcraft shapes economic development and why.

This talk will focus on East Africa, a setting where witchcraft beliefs are widespread. It will shed light on how these beliefs affect decisions on investment, cooperation or perceptions of development aid. It will also highlight how misperceiving or ignoring such beliefs can lead to unintended and detrimental effects of well-intended programs. I will summarize research findings and talk about an ongoing project on cash transfers and witchcraft beliefs in Kenya.

Lecture with Arne Nasgowitz, phd candidate, NHH