Chapter 6 The Satanism Scare in Apartheid South Africa

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion
Author:
Nicky Falkof
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During the last years of apartheid the white South African press fell victim to a powerful Satanic panic which suggested that white Satanists were infiltrating the nation, endangering its youth and threatening its moral fibre. Although no evidence of satanic cult activity was ever uncovered, police, politicians, editors, teachers and other moral entrepreneurs were deeply committed to the idea that organised Satanists were attacking the nation from within. This chapter argues that the conspiracy theories that developed around fear of Satanism were in fact an act of collective deferral: they allowed white people to express potent anxieties about social change without having to acknowledge black South Africans’ legitimate demands for justice, which were becoming increasingly difficult to evade. Far from being just an episode of mass hysteria, white fears of Satanist conspiracy were an important element of the paranoid, reactive psychic landscape of whiteness at the end of apartheid.

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