By Katherine Luongo
In the last two decades African asylum-seekers have increasingly argued that being accused of witchcraft or targeted with witchcraft renders them members of a particular social group subject to persecution and eligible for refugee protection. This project analyzes how immigration regimes in three Commonwealth countries – Canada, Australia, and the UK – have engaged with allegations about witchcraft-driven violence made by asylum-seekers coming from Anglophone countries across the African continent and situates these asylum-seekers’ claims about the absence of state protection from witchcraft-driven violence in a deeply historicized legal context. Taking witchcraft-based asylum cases as a starting point it investigates the ways in which law has engaged, or failed to engage, with cross-cultural difference. It advances understandings of how witchcraft beliefs and practices have endured and the ways that they persist as significant engines of violence in the contemporary world. It sheds light both on the limits of cultural relativism in asylum adjudication and on how social scientific expertise contributes not simply to the flow of ideas, but also to the channeling of people across national, cultural, and epistemological boundaries. Overall, it analyzes the global reach of local violence.