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Sarah Rafajlovic, M.A.

Sarah Rafajlovic, M.A.



Start: April 2010

Supervisor: PD Dr. Alexander Knorr

Grants: Promos LMU scholarship (09.2010 – 02.2011), PROSALMU scholarship (10.2012 – 02.2013)

Gendering the Witch: Women, Sorcery and the Occult in Post-Socialist Serbia.

In the West sorcery and the feminine have been chained in an unfortunate alliance since the Renaissance up to our times. The classical image of the witch-figure as an old woman possessing evil powers has become so popular, it nearly transformed into a common cultural icon. Throughout the period of inquisition pagan thought besides various indigenous customs systematically was transformed into heresy and the Other.

Based on the idea of the witch as an intercultural phenomenon the project seeks to define the specific features the topic shows in contemporary Serbia. Being under Ottoman rule for centuries, a church-state symbiosis never could develop too close and pagan traditions numerously merged into religious practice. As inquisition failed to spread, terms like witchcraft and sorcery thus remained ambivalent in use and magical thought somehow still is present in everyday life.

The thesis aims to reveal the hidden mechanisms that are participating in the cultural construction of the witch-figure in Serbia, referring on syncretism, mythology and certain gender dualisms. It understands perceptions of the witch basically as context-bound and dependent on specific temporary and regional semantics. Besides the meaning of rural sorcery and traditional women-healers, aspects of the neopagan movement that generally emerged in urban areas during the political and economic crisis of the 90ies will be considered as well. As the thesis is built up as a discourse analysis the data material mainly derives from literary sources.


Oktober 2012 – May 2013: Visiting PhD student at the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, University of Belgrade

Since April 2010: PhD student at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich

October 2004 – March 2010: Magister Artium at the LMU Munich, Modern German Literary Studies (Major), Sociocultural Anthropology (Minor), Medieval and Modern Art History (Minor). Master’s thesis: Writing on human bodies – A study using the example of “The Pillow Book” and “Memento”.

Further activities

May 2011 – December 2011: Project assistance to “Last Rites Niger Delta. The Drama of Oil Production in Contemporary Photographs.” at the Munich State Museum of Ethnography

September 2010 – February 2011: Internship at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade


Sarah Rafajlovic: Oily Rivers – Plastic World. In: Christine Stelzig, Eva Ursprung and Stefan Eisenhofer (Ed.): Last Rites Niger Delta. The Drama of Oil Production in Contemporary Photographs. Munich State Museum of Ethnology: 2012, p. 22-24.