Afterword: Political Ethnography as Art and Science

  • Charles Tilly

Adam Ashforth has written one of the recent political ethnographies I most admire. His Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in South Africa draws on a total of about 3 years’ residence during the 1990s in Soweto (South West Township), an Apartheid-built black suburb of Johannesburg, plus subsequent visits to his adopted family and friends there. Earlier, Ashforth wrote an impressive historical analysis of the process by which Apartheid took shape (Ashforth 1990). But preparation for his book on witchcraft, violence, and democracy plunged him shoulder-deep into ethnography. Through first-hand observation, personal intervention, and incessant interrogation of his acquaintances, Ashforth built up a powerful picture of coping, strife, and hope amid vicious violence. Ashforth’s ethnographic involvement forced him to abandon many a preconceived category and explanation of struggle during and after Apartheid.


Clinical Artist Adopted Family Contentious Politics Social Movement Group Everyday Politics 
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  1. Ashforth, A. (1990). The politics of official discourse in twentieth-century South Africa. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ashforth, A. (2005). Witchcraft, violence, and democracy in South Africa. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Tilly
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesColumbia University, New YorkUSA

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