African Witchcraft and Otherness

A Philosophical and Theological Critique of Intersubjective Relations

By Elias Kifon Bongmba

Subjects: Anthropology
Paperback : 9780791449905, 224 pages, May 2001
Hardcover : 9780791449899, 224 pages, May 2001

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Table of contents




Chapter 1. The Wimbum People

Chapter 2. Toward a Hermeneutics of Wimbum Tfu

Chapter 3. Beyond the Rationality Debate to Contextual Ethics

Chapter 4. Levinas on the Ethics of the Other

Chapter 5. Toward a Philosophical and Theological Critique of Tfu



Appendix: Different Levels of Tfu Knowledge


Selected Bibliography


A bold work of African philosophy and theology that brings together witchcraft and the philosophy of Levinas.


This work of African philosophy and theology uses the thought of Emmanuel Levinas to provide an analysis of tfu (witchcraft) among the Wimbum people of Cameroon along with a critique of intersubjective relations. Taking an approach he calls "critical contextualism," author Elias Bongmba employs Levinas's philosophy, particularly the concept of the Other, to engage in cross-cultural philosophy that does not destroy the perspective of the culture under study. Insights from anthropology, African studies, and the author's own experiences are also important throughout the book. Bongmba discusses the cultural background of the Wimbum people and explores the concepts and terms used to discuss the acquisition of several categories of power generally described as tfu. Bongmba argues that when properly explored and understood, these terms refer to complex practices that involve power that can be used for good and power that can be abused. Drawing from Levinas, the author demonstrates that negative use of tfu constitutes a totalizing praxis. He goes on to endorse Levinas's call for a phenomenology of eros as a way of reconfiguring interpersonal relationships.

Elias Kifon Bongmba is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University.


"For all those who believe that the future of philosophy is pluralistic and cross-cultural, Elias Kifon Bongmba's African Witchcraft and Otherness offers a unique view of that future. Bongmba uses Levinas to critique tfu—the result being a rich and controversial study of the application of Western philosophy to African society. The book is a wonderful mixture of personal anecdote and philosophical analysis that leaves far behind the pseudo-problems that too often preoccupy philosophers. " — Robert Bernasconi, coeditor of Re-Reading Levinas