Demonic Deliverance: Exorcism in Africa and Latin America

October 8, 2018

The Exorcist is an iconic film, but merely a fictional depiction of a dramatic spiritual rite actually performed by real people. Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta, Canada, Dr. Kate Kingsbury explores the reality of exorcism as practiced in Africa and Latin America in her upcoming lecture Demonic Deliverance to be held on Monday, November 12 from 4 to 6 p.m. in Hibbs 407.

While exorcisms were widely performed in Medieval Europe, they fell out of favor during the 18th century’s Age of Reason. However, exorcism seems to be making a comeback since the latter half of the 1900s, not only within popular culture as with The Exorcist but within the church itself. Even Pope Francis performed one in 2013 and the Vatican held an exorcism workshop just this past April. Dr. Kingsbury’s lecture sheds light on the causes and effects of this rite’s recent resurgence.

Dr. Kingsbury obtained her Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Oxford and has published many articles focused on religion, anthropology, and feminism. Demonic Deliverance: Exorcism in Africa and Latin America explores in depth the ongoing function, understanding and experiences of exorcism. Her lecture is part of the ongoing Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Catholic Studies Speaker Series through the School of World Studies.

Much of Dr. Kingsbury’s scholarship deals with how religions simultaneously uphold long standing traditions while also changing and adapting through time and space. Demonic Deliverance tackles the ways in which exorcism as practiced in Africa and Latin America has retained its Catholic traditions but changed to reflect different cultures and times.

In addition to her scholarship and teaching, Dr. Kingsbury is a champion of gender equality who has volunteered with Uganda For Her, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women and girls through reproductive justice education. You can learn more about the resurgence of exorcism in her recent piece “Why is Exorcism All the Rage Across the Globe?” on VCU professor Andrew Chesnut’s Patheos column.