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PHOTO MAGIC: PHOTOGRAPHS IN PRACTICES OF HEALING AND HARMING IN EAST AFRICA

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In this contribution, I present a few examples of practices in present-day African Christian Churches in which photographs 'do magic' and are used to heal or harm. To counter a tendency, inherent in this topic, of exoticizing and othering, I not only give examples of African 'photo magic' but also include European ones, examples that in the 'standard' or 'official' histories of Western photography are missing. In addition, I try to work out the interdependence and the mutual mirroring of Western and African practices and discourses, i.e., aspects of their interculturality, against the background of the Christian Eucharist and cult of relics. For it is in the Eucharist and relics that the paradoxes of simultaneous presence and absence as well as substance and representation are dealt with, paradoxes that will reappear in the photographic practices in Kenya and Uganda. Thus, I attempt to interpret Ugandan and Kenyan photo magic in Christian churches as variations of the Eucharist.

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