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Witchcraft, Grief, and the Ambivalence of Emotions

Michele Stephen
American Ethnologist
Vol. 26, No. 3 (Aug., 1999), pp. 711-737
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/647444
Page Count: 27
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Witchcraft, Grief, and the Ambivalence of Emotions
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Abstract

In this article, I argue that Melanie Klein's psychoanalytic theory of mourning can shed new light on an old anthropological topic: witchcraft and sorcery. Beginning with sociocentric analyses of sorcery and witchcraft, and linking these beliefs to the experiential context of grief and bereavement, I focus on two ethnographic case studies--Balinese witchcraft and Mekeo sorcery. I use Klein's theory of mourning to extend Freud's concept of the ambivalence of emotions in order to show how unresolved childhood fears and images of the destructive mother give rise to persecutory fears at the death of a loved person. From this perspective, several problems left hanging by sociocentric and structuralist approaches to witchcraft and sorcery can be answered in new ways. [ambivalence, grief, Melanie Klein, mourning, sorcery, witchcraft]

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