Sorcery of Construction and Socialist Modernization: Ways of Understanding Power in Postcolonial Mozambique



In this article I examine how rural Mozambicans in the Mueda plateau region experienced the socialist modernization policies of FRELIMO, the anti-colonial guerrilla movement that eventually took power over the postindependence Mozambican state. In interpreting and engaging with the dramatic transformations brought on by FRELIMO socialism, Muedans often drew on the familiar language of sorcery, notwithstanding FRELIMO attempts to banish sorcery-related beliefs and practices. While Muedans sometimes resisted the modernization agenda and sometimes embraced it, they could not make systematic instrumental use of sorcery discourse to pursue strategic ends. Rather, sorcery served them more broadly as a social diagnostics of power relations —one that preserved ways of understanding power that are saturated with ambivalence, [power, postcolonial Africa, sorcery, surveillance, guerrilla war, villagization, modernization]