CAS WP 2/2013
Medicine murder of people with albinism in Tanzania – how casino capitalism creates rumorscapes and occult economies
In 2007, a spate of killings of people with albinism in Northwest Tanzania placed the country in the international limelight. Rumors that the bones of people with albinism were a necessary ingredient in wealth generating magic potions provoked the killings which had no precedents in Tanzania or the local Sukuma culture. This working paper places the rumors in a wider context of living with albinism in Tanzania as well as a general retreat to magic in the face of economic distress. It is argued that the specific nature of the mining and fishing industries in Northwest Tanzania as examples of casino capitalism brings about ‘rumorscapes’, in which stories from near and far are exchanged, fused, adapted and, by some ‘witchdoctors’, turned into viable business options. The rumors and the killings must be understood as a new phenomenon, not as a retreat to traditional modi operandi from local Sukuma magic. Only by addressing the uncertainties faced by people working in the fishing and mining industries will it be possible to prevent such murders in the future.