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Title: Witchcraft, violence and everyday life: an ethnographic study of Kinshasa
Authors: De Faveri, Silvia
Advisors: Argenti, N
Niehaus, I
Keywords: Democratic Republic of Congo;Street gangs;Informal economy;Childhood studies;Street children
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: The inhabitants of Kinshasa, who call themselves Kinois, deal with insecurity and violence on a daily basis. Cheating and thefts are commonplace, and pillaging by street gangs and robberies by armed thieves are everyday occurrences. The state infrastructure is so poorly regulated that deaths by accident or medical negligence are also common. This, and much more, contributes to a challenging social milieu within which the Kinois’ best hope is simply to ‘make do’. This thesis, based on extensive fieldwork in Kinshasa, analyses different forms of violence which affect the Kinois on a daily basis. I argue that the Kinois’ concept of violence, mobulu, differs from Western definitions, which define violence as an intrinsically negative and destructive force. Mobulu is for the Kinois a potentially constructive phenomenon, which allows them to build relationships, coping strategies and new social phenomena. Violence is perceived as a transformative force, through which people build meaningful lives in the face of the hardship of everyday life. Broadly speaking, this thesis contributes to the Anthropology of violence which has too often focused on how violence is imposed upon a population, often from a structural level of a state and its institutions. Such an approach fails to account for the nuances of alternate perspectives of what ‘violence’ is, as evidenced in this thesis through the prism of the Kinois term mobulu. The concept of mobulu highlights the creativity of those forced to ‘make do’ on the streets of Kinshasa, to negotiate not only every day physical needs, for food and shelter, but also to navigate the mystical violence of witchcraft. By exploring the coping mechanisms across all sections of society, I analyse how the Kinois not only have built their lives in the wake of the violence of the state, but they have also found means of empowerment within it, using mobulu as a springboard for the development of some social phenomena. Whereas the anthropology of violence has focused mainly on physical and material violence, this thesis also argues that mobulu in Kinshasa is a total social fact that combines state violence with everyday violence, and physical violence with the invisible violence of witchcraft. This thesis seeks to enrich discussions on witchcraft in Kinshasa and in the African context in general, by analysing in depth how the cosmology of Kinshasa has differentiated itself as a result of the politico-economic events of recent decades. As witchcraft and material insecurity go hand in hand, a detailed analysis of the mechanisms of witchcraft is necessary, if we are to grasp the complexity of the concept of mobulu and how material and invisible violence inform each other.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
Appears in Collections:Anthropology
Dept of Social and Political Sciences Theses

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