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The Anthropology of Uncertainty: Magic, Witchcraft and Risk and Forensic Implications

Simon Dein

This paper examines the Anthropology of Uncertainty. After a discussion of what constitutes uncertainty I examine various ways of dealing with this in non-western cultures: witchcraft, magic and religion. I then move onto a discussion of contemporary aspects of risk in Western societies. I discuss its historical emergence and the relationship between risk, sin and taboo. Witchcraft, religion and risk all provide explanatory framework for misfortune. Witchcraft also involves issues of accountability. This is similarly the case for risk. Both witchcraft and risk have forensic implications. I illustrate this by the work of Mary Douglas.