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'Going Bush': Black Magic, White Ambivalence and Boundaries of Belief in Postcolonial Kenya

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This article examines the ways in which contemporary white Kenyans know about, talk about and sometimes interact with what they call 'witchcraft' and 'magic' in ways they find deeply discomfiting. Although white Kenyans are at pains to justify their postcolonial advantages in Kenya in terms of a level-headed and pragmatic kind of personhood, many of them interact with indigenous religious ontologies more than ever, sometimes as manipulators of the occult and sometimes as its fear-stricken victims. Because of these contradictions between ideology and experience, white narratives about 'witchcraft' and 'magic' are frequently riddled with tensions and equivocations. Many white Kenyans find creative rhetorical strategies for dealing with these tensions, strategies that sometimes fly in the face of simple models of 'belief ' as a commitment to truth value by treating it as a state of vulnerability that can lay one open to mysterious ontological forces.


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