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Claims-Making and Typifications of Voodoo as a Deviant Religion: Hex, Lies, and Videotape

John P. Bartkowski
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 37, No. 4 (Dec., 1998), pp. 559-579
DOI: 10.2307/1388141
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1388141
Page Count: 21
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Claims-Making and Typifications of Voodoo as a Deviant Religion: Hex, Lies, and Videotape
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Abstract

A small number of researchers and social commentators have called attention to negative perceptions about voodoo in U.S. cultural discourse. Yet, remarkably little scholarship has examined the nature, scope, and source of these perceptions in a systematic fashion. In this paper, I use key insights from social constructionism to examine three different typifications of voodoo as broadcast by the U.S. news media. I begin by outlining the constructionist perspective, focusing most pointedly on the nature of claims-making and its relationship to typifications (i.e., distinctive constructions) of a social problem. Then, I examine in detail three specific typifications of voodoo as promulgated by various sets of primary and secondary claims-makers in recent years. These respective typifications portray voodoo as (1) a religion based on black magic and witchcraft; (2) a melange of superstitious beliefs used for deceptive purposes; and, (3) a cult religion which sanctions human torture and sacrifice. I conclude by discussing the implications of my findings for claims-making and media representations about unconventional religious groups.

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