Juju and Statecraft: Occult Rumors and Politics in Ghana
Religion plays an integral role in all aspects of Ghanaian life, including politics. In recent years, many scholars have commented upon the spectacular rise of Pentecostal Christianity in Ghana since the 1970s, noting its particular influence in politics and in shaping the Ghanaian public sphere more generally. Curiously, though less often noted, rumors about “the occult” and occult influence have also flourished during this same period. Despite Pentecostal hostility to the occult and Pentecostal influence in public life, such rumors have become prevalent to the point that they represent a distinctive feature of Ghanaian politics. This thesis addresses the phenomenon of rumors about the occult in contemporary Ghanaian politics. It argues that the flourishing of political-occult rumors and the strength of Pentecostalism are related. Focusing on the period between the late 1970s and present, and drawing on data from fieldwork interviews and newspaper reports, the thesis examines the force of occult rumors in modern Ghanaian politics. It demonstrates some of the ways in which Ghanaian political elites deploy occult rumors for political advantage and some popular attitudes of the Ghanaian electorate to the rumors. The project proposes that the occult, far from being a phenomenon existing on the margins of modern Ghanaian society, is powerful, public and mainstream.