Panel 7: Monsters & Economics – 8 Dec 15:30 – 17:30

How to become a Sakawa Boy: magic and modernity in Ghana

Matthew Gmalifo Mabefam

Sakawa boys are young men in Ghana who use magic and witchcraft to manipulate their victims into giving them large sums of money. Sakawa are recruited primarily from the urban poor and their principle target are Westerners via the internet. Economic insecurity and entrenched poverty resulting from government corruption as well as neocolonial global development initiatives, all contribute a setting where occult economies thrive. This paper demonstrates how the promise of great wealth sits alongside fear of witchcraft, societal disapproval and the risk of death if the rules of Sakawa are disobeyed. It explores the logics of poverty that make becoming a Sakawa a viable survival strategy despite the risks involved.

The Branding of the Devil: A Sociology of Exorcism

Adam Possamai

Working from the perspective of the sociology of contemporary religion, this article discusses the social construction of the phenomenon of exorcism, and how exorcism is located today in the current consumer culture, in which branding and differentiation are of social significance. It is argued that, within societies where religions compete with each other more and more, ministries of exorcism and deliverance have become part of this process of branding and differentiation. This thesis is then developed and tested by drawing on and analysing original data concerning the work of deliverance and exorcism documented by an experienced and philosophically-trained Catholic exorcist operating in southern Europe over a ten year period. On the basis of these original data, it is concluded that the Catholic Church had expanded the ministry of exorcism into the wider ministry of deliverance as a form of branding and differentiation, and as a clear counter-branding against charismatic Protestant movements.

How to Brand Your Monster

Matt Tomlinson

Monsters don’t just sell themselves. Some monsters are so loathsome that no one wants to have anything to do with them. But some monsters are attractive and lend themselves to all kinds of projects. In this article, I consider the career of the Jersey Devil, a thirteenth child who slaughtered the midwife who delivered him and went on to become, among many other things, the star of a video game, the namesake of a species of tomato, and also the name of a hockey team. The Jersey Devil lives not only in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, where I once hunted for him as a child; he also lives an active life in mass media, a celebrity whose bad deeds enhance his appeal. I propose seven criteria for branding your monster, focusing on the monster’s name, look, setting, scariness factor, sex appeal, humorous edge, and key distinction. Make your monster stand out from the crowd!–for in our modern world, nothing is more frightening than being completely ignored.

Discussant: Debbie Felton.