Sign up for our Email Newsletter Berghahn Books Logo

berghahn New York · Oxford

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Instagram
Engaging Evil: A Moral Anthropology

View Table of Contents

Volume 36

Methodology & History in Anthropology

See Related
Anthropology Journals

Email Newsletters

Sign up for our email newsletters to get customized updates on new Berghahn publications.

Click here to select your preferences

Engaging Evil

A Moral Anthropology

Edited by William C. Olsen and Thomas J. Csordas
Afterword by David Parkin

322 pages, index

ISBN  978-1-78920-213-7 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (May 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78920-214-4 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“The various contributions offer a rich and highly variegated overview of how anthropologists have dealt with ‘evil’ and thus give a good idea of the baffling variety hiding behind this notion.” • Peter Geschiere, University of Amsterdam


Anthropologists have expressed wariness about the concept of evil even in discussions of morality and ethics, in part because the concept carries its own cultural baggage and theological implications in Euro-American societies. Addressing the problem of evil as a distinctly human phenomenon and a category of ethnographic analysis, this volume shows the usefulness of engaging evil as a descriptor of empirical reality where concepts such as violence, criminality, and hatred fall short of capturing the darkest side of human existence.

William C. Olsen is a lecturer for anthropology and African studies at Georgetown University.

Thomas J. Csordas is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and James Y. Chan Presidential Chair in Global Health at the University of California, San Diego.

Subject: Theory and Methodology Sociology Anthropology of Religion


William C. Olsen and Thomas Csordas


Chapter 1. From Theodicy to Homodicy: Evil as an Anthropological Problem
Thomas Csordas

Chapter 2. On the Concept of “Evil” in Anthropological Analyses and Political Violence
Byron Good


Chapter 3. Speak No Evil: Inversion and Evasion in Indonesia
Andrew Beatty

Chapter 4. Mother Evil in Hell Valley: A Creole Transvalorisation of Evil in Trinidad
Roland Littlewood

Chapter 5. Satan on the Old Kent Road: Articulations of Evil in a Pentecostal Diaspora
Simon Coleman

Chapter 6. The Transformation of Evil in Nepal
David Gellner

Chapter 7. Radical Evil and the Notion of Conscience: A Buddhist Meditation on Christian Soteriology
Gananath Obeyesekere

Chapter 8. Are Spirits Satanic? The Ambiguity of Evil in Niger
Adeline Masqulier


Chapter 9. Engaging Evil and Excess in Palestine / Israel
Julie Peteet

Chapter 10. The Violence of Evil: A Biocultural Approach to Violence, Memory, and Pain
Ventura Perez

Chapter 11. The Intention of Evil: Asram in Asante
William C. Olsen

Chapter 12. Monsters, Sadists, and the Unspectacular Torture Experience
Nerina Weiss

David Parkin

Back to Top