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'Human Security' and 'Spiritual Insecurity' Why the Fear of Invisible Forces Must Be Taken Seriously

20 August, 2013
4PM - 5:30PM

Security is a central preoccupation of the global development industry. Famine, disease, and climate change, among other things, are constantly referred to in the language of security, and not merely as potential problems that might require military action by states. Indeed, security, broadly conceived, has come to be thought of as an end in itself for the development process. But the way the concept is currently construed is inadequate for understanding the sense of danger, doubt, and fear that afflicts a great part of the world’s population arising from relations with invisible forces – a condition named as “spiritual insecurity.”

This paper, drawing on examples from Africa, develops a strategy for analyzing spiritual insecurity and showing why it must be taken seriously in accounts of security in general.

Adam Ashforth is Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies and Helmut F. Stern Professor in the Humanities Institute at the University of Michigan.  He is the author of three books and numerous articles, including Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in South Africa (University of Chicago Press), which was awarded the 2005 Herskovits Prize By the African Studies Association and the Toyin Falola Award of the Third World Studies Association for 2006. He is also author of Madumo, A Man Bewitched  (Chicago, 2000). His work on spiritual insecurity in Africa is influential in a wide variety of fields, including law, religion, and public health as well as in core disciplines of the social sciences.  He has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Sciences Research Council, the Macarthur Foundation, and the H.F. Guggenheim Foundation, as well as the Institute for Advanced Study.


Due to the NTEU Strike, this event has been relocated to an off-campus location.

Limited seating is available. RSVP is essential.

Location will be notified to those who have RSVP'd. 

02 9036 9529

Contact:Raelene Loong
Phone: 61 2 9036 9529 (Mon - Wed)

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