Bewitching Development: Witchcraft and the Reinvention of Development in Neoliberal Kenya. James Howard Smith. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 2008. vii+269pp.
Assistant Professor, College of the Holy Cross Bewitching Development is one of the great works of Africanist scholarship of this decade. James Howard Smith has taken on some of the most exciting themes of recent Africanist research – such as the relationship between witchcraft and modernity (as in Peter Geschiere's Modernity of Witchcraft), the exploration of how ideologies of modernity are taken on by Africans (as in Ferguson's Expectations of Modernity), and the particularities of the African state in relationship to its people (as in Mbembe's work On the Postcolony or Bayart's The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly) – and pushed them in new directions. Smith struggles here against Afro-pessimism, seeking the optimism and, more importantly, activism within the local Kenyan communities he researched.