Centre for Economic Transformation | CET

‘That’s Witchcraft’

community entrepreneuring as a process of navigating intra-community tensions through spiritual practices


This paper theorizes the spiritual processes of community entrepreneuring as navigating tensions that arise when community-based enterprises (CBEs) emerge within communities and generate socio-economic inequality. Grounded on an ethnographic study of a dairy CBE in rural Malawi, findings reveal that intra-community tensions revolve around the occurrence of ‘bad events’ – mysterious tragedies that, among their multiple meanings, are also framed as witchcraft.

Community members prepare for, frame, cope and build collective sustenance from ‘bad events’ by intertwining witchcraft and mundane socio-material practices. Together, these practices reflect the mystery and the ambiguity that surround ‘bad events’ and prevent intra-community tensions from overtly erupting.

Through witchcraft, intra-community tensions are channelled, amplified and tamed cyclically as this process first destabilizes community social order and then restabilizes it after partial compensation for socio-economic inequality. Generalizing beyond witchcraft, this spiritual view of community entrepreneuring enriches our understanding of entrepreneuring – meant as organization-creation process in an already organized world – in the context of communities.

Furthermore, it sheds light on the dynamics of socio-economic inequality surrounding CBEs, and on how spirituality helps community members to cope with inequality and its effects.

Reference Cucchi, C., Lubberink, R., Dentoni, D., & Gartner, W. B. (2022). ‘That’s Witchcraft’: community entrepreneuring as a process of navigating intra-community tensions through spiritual practices. Organization Studies, 43(2), 179-201. https://doi.org/10.1177/01708406211031730
Published by  CAREM 1 February 2022

Publication date

Feb 2022


Carlo Cucchi
Domenico Dentoni
William B. Gartner


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