SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Simpson, Nikita (2023) 'Encountering the Dain: Space-Time, Witchcraft Anxiety and Gaddi Tribal Belonging.' Himalaya: journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 42 (2). pp. 70-85.

Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Download (646kB) | Preview


Outwardly, most Gaddi people refute the relevance and danger of witchcraft in present times. At another level, however, rumors of jadu (witchcraft, or spells and curses performed by a witch) and opara (black magic, or curses that may be performed by anyone) circulate in particular places, caste neighborhoods, and households. This article argues that the study of the discourses of witchcraft—anxieties, rumors, suspected afflictions—provides a window into the changing shape of tribal belonging in the Gaddi community. Drawing on the theory of witchcraft developed by Nancy Munn (1986), the article suggests that witchcraft is an intersubjective practice that generates and manipulates space-time. In the Gaddi case, this manifests in a temporal split. On the one hand, Gaddi people eschew their reputation for witchcraft, rooted in British colonial stereotypes, to break from stigmatizing and marginalizing assumptions about their religious and social practices as they strive for tribal dignity. On the other, the persistent rumors of witchcraft within the Gaddi community articulate a struggle over the contours and values of tribal belonging as it is bound with caste distinction, class mobility, and gendered generational change. Focusing on the complexities of the Gaddi case, this article suggests that witchcraft—when understood through a politics of space-time—remains a valuable tool for South Asian anthropologists as they investigate the nexus of tribe, caste, and class relations.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Witchcraft; tribal and caste politics; space; time; India
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
ISSN: 19352212
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2023 08:22
Funders: Other

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item