1st Edition

African Witchcraft and Global Asylum-Seeking Border-Crossing Beliefs

By Katherine Luongo Copyright 2023

    This book analyzes how over the last two decades, immigration regimes in three primary refugee-receiving states in the Global North – Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom – have engaged with allegations about witchcraft-driven violence made by asylum seekers coming from Anglophone countries across the African continent.

    The work intervenes at the nexus of anthropological, historical, legal, developmental, and human rights literatures to offer fresh insights into extrajudicial violence and global migration. Taking witchcraft-based asylum cases as its focal point, it argues that the recent dramatic expansion in claims to refugee protection under the ‘particular social group’ category of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention reflects immigration authorities’ increasing willingness to consider how legally recognizable persecution can derive from cultural practices and beliefs. Reflecting critically on such cases, it advances understandings of how witchcraft beliefs and practices have persisted as significant engines of violence in the contemporary world. It sheds light both on the limits of legal pluralism and cultural relativism in asylum adjudication and on how social scientific expertise contributes not simply to the flow of ideas, but also to the channelling of people across national, cultural, and epistemological boundaries.

    The book will be essential reading for students and researchers in legal anthropology, African studies, human rights, transnational history, migration and refugee law and policy, and the history and anthropology of witchcraft.


    1 Sanctuary-Seeking in a World With Witchcraft

    2 Supernatural States and the Absence of Protection: A Legal Genealogy of Witchcraft Violence

    3 Conflicting Codes and Disputed Dangers: Refugee Status Determination in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia

    4 Cognizance, Credulity, and Case Law

    5 Witchcraft as a Push Factor

    Epilogue: When Witchcraft Migrates



    Katherine Angela Luongo is Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, Northeastern University, Boston, USA.