Muthi, Medicine and Witchcraft: Regulating ‘African Science’ in Post-Apartheid South Africa?
<P>This paper comprises extracts from Adam Ashforth’s book: Witchcraft, Violence and Democracy in South Africa (Chicago University Press, 2005). It argues that the distinction between witchcraft and healing is essentially a moral one (healers and witches use supernatural forces supposedly for different ends) and that both activities fall under the rubric of ‘African science’. Whereas proponents of ‘Indigenous Knowledge Systems’ attempt, as part of a broader cultural project, to provide ‘traditional’ African healing with scientific status, others – starting with Motlana’s 1988 call to ‘stop romanticizing the evil depredations of the sangoma’ in order to free patients from the ‘tyranny of superstition’ – emphasise the incommensurability of traditional healing practices with science. The paper concludes with a discussion of how such incommensurability makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for the post-apartheid state to regulate ‘African science’.</P>