Beyond the witch trials
Public infidelity and private belief?
Public infidelity and private belief ?
The discourse of spirits in Enlightenment Bristol
Recent work on the history of witchcraft and magic has identified three
themes or approaches as of particular importance in our understanding of a
subject which, although it has been centre stage since the publication of
Religion and the Decline of Magic in 1971, has continued to trouble historians.
The first problem, acknowledged as ‘the most baffling aspect of this difficult
subject’ by Thomas
the formation of belief
– part one
Ambrosius de Vignate was a well-respected magistrate and legal scholar, a
doctor of both canon and civil law, who lectured at Padua, Bologna, and Turin
between 1452 and 1468. On several occasions he participated in the trials of
accused witches: he tells us that he had heard men and women alike confess
– both freely and under torture – that they belonged to the sect of witches
(“secta mascorum seu maleficorum”) and that they, and others whom they
implicated, had done all sorts of
This book situates witchcraft drama within its cultural and intellectual context,
highlighting the centrality of scepticism and belief in witchcraft to the genre.
It is argued that these categories are most fruitfully understood not as static
and mutually exclusive positions within the debate around witchcraft, but as
rhetorical tools used within it. In drama, too, scepticism and belief are vital
issues. The psychology of the witch character is characterised by a combination
of impious scepticism towards God and credulous belief in the tricks of the
witch’s master, the devil. Plays which present plausible depictions of witches
typically use scepticism as a support: the witch’s power is subject to important
limitations which make it easier to believe. Plays that take witchcraft less
seriously present witches with unrestrained power, an excess of belief which
ultimately induces scepticism. But scepticism towards witchcraft can become a
veneer of rationality concealing other beliefs that pass without sceptical
examination. The theatrical representation of witchcraft powerfully demonstrates
its uncertain status as a historical and intellectual phenomenon; belief and
scepticism in witchcraft drama are always found together, in creative tension
with one another.
the formation of belief
– part two
In the previous chapter we examined how motifs drawn from traditional beliefs
about spectral night-traveling women informed the construction of learned
witch categories in the late Middle Ages. Although the precise manner in which
these motifs were utilized differed between authorities, two general mental
habits set off fifteenth-century witch-theorists from earlier writers. First, they
elided the distinctions between previously discrete sets of beliefs to create a
expressed support for doctors dissatisfied with the quality of care that the
organisation had to offer, publicly commented: ‘We’re going to get
a lot of people who haven’t treated a patient who are now the world
experts, and who are going to give us lessons’ ( Check Hayden, 2015 ). The general belief inside and
outside the organisation was that MSF’s intervention in West Africa had
been an overwhelming success.
This article seeks to show that the bodies of Jewish people who died in the Drancy internment camp between 1941 and 1944 were handled on French soil in a doubly normalised manner: first by the police and judicial system, and then in relation to funeral arrangements. My findings thus contradict two preconceived ideas that have become firmly established in collective memory: first, the belief that the number who died in the Drancy camp is difficult to establish; and second, the belief that the remains of internees who died in the camp were subjected to rapid and anonymous burial in a large mass grave in Drancy municipal cemetery.
If he is known for anything other than his writings, James Baldwin is best known for his
work as a civil rights activist. What is often overlooked is Baldwin’s work toward uniting
two under-represented and oppressed groups: African Americans and homosexuals. With his
first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Baldwin began a career of speaking about and for
homosexuals and their relationship with the institutions of African-American communities.
Through its focus on a sensitive, church-going teenager, Go Tell It on the Mountain
dramatizes the strain imposed upon homosexual members of African-American communities
within the Pentecostal Church through its religious beliefs.
Black Women as Surrogates of Liberation in James Baldwin’s
If Beale Street Could Talk
Marquita R. Smith
This essay analyzes how James Baldwin’s late novel If Beale Street
Could Talk represents Black women’s care work in the face of
social death as an example of how Black women act as surrogates for Black
liberation giving birth to a new world and possibilities of freedom for Black
(male) people. Within the politics of Black nationalism, Black women were
affective workers playing a vital role in the (re)creation of heteronormative
family structures that formed the basis of Black liberation cohered by a belief
in the power of patriarchy to make way for communal freedom. This essay
demonstrates how Beale Street’s imagining of freedom
centers not on what Black women do to support themselves or each other, but on
the needs of the community at large, with embodied sacrifice as a presumed
condition of such liberation.
Presumed black immunity to yellow fever and the racial politics of burial labour in 1855 Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia
Michael D. Thompson
Epidemic disease regularly tore through nineteenth-century American cities, triggering public health crises and economic upheaval. These epidemic panics also provoked new racialised labour regimes, affecting the lives of innumerable working people. During yellow fever outbreaks, white authorities and employers preferred workers of colour over ‘unacclimated’ white immigrants, reflecting a common but mistaken belief in black invulnerability. This article chronicles enslaved burial labourers in antebellum Virginia, who leveraged this notion to seize various privileges – and nearly freedom. These episodes demonstrate that black labour, though not always black suffering or lives, mattered immensely to white officials managing these urban crises. Black workers were not mere tools for protecting white wealth and health, however, as they often risked torment and death to capitalise on employers’ desperation for their essential labour. This history exposes racial and socioeconomic divergence between those able to shelter or flee from infection, and those compelled to remain exposed and exploitable.
James Baldwin’s Pragmatist Politics in
The Fire Next Time
Courtney D Ferriter
In The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin argues that the American dream is far from being a
reality in part because there is much Americans do not wish to know about themselves.
Given the current political climate in the United States, this idea seems just as timely
as it did in the 1960s. Baldwin’s politics and thinking about race and religion are
informed by an optimistic belief in the human capacity to love and change for the better,
in contrast with Ta-Nehisi Coates, the heir apparent to Baldwin’s legacy. Considering
current events, it seems particularly useful to turn back to The Fire Next Time. Not only
does Baldwin provide a foundation for understanding racism in the United States, but more
importantly, he provides some much-needed hope and guidance for the future. Baldwin
discusses democracy as an act that must be realized, in part by coming to a greater
understanding of race and religion as performative acts that have political consequences
for all Americans. In this article, I examine the influence of pragmatism on Baldwin’s
understanding of race and religion. By encouraging readers to acknowledge race and
religion as political constructs, Baldwin highlights the inseparability of theory and
practice that is a hallmark of both pragmatism and the realization of a democratic
society. Furthermore, I argue that Baldwin’s politics provide a more useful framework than
Coates’s for this particular historical moment because of Baldwin’s emphasis on change and