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Journal of Gender Studies

For a Special Issue on

WITCH HUNTS EVERYWHERE: A Feminist Re-Mapping of Misogyny and Contemporary Anti-Witch Violence

Abstract deadline
30 May 2024

Manuscript deadline
01 November 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Jane Ward, University of California, Santa Barbara
[email protected]

Soma Chaudhuri, Michigan State University
[email protected]

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WITCH HUNTS EVERYWHERE: A Feminist Re-Mapping of Misogyny and Contemporary Anti-Witch Violence

Journal of Gender Studies: Special issue on contemporary feminist reinterpretation of witch hunts

Special issue co-editors Jane Ward ([email protected]) and Soma Chaudhuri ([email protected])

WITCH HUNTS EVERYWHERE: A Feminist Re-Mapping of Misogyny and Contemporary Anti-Witch Violence


What is a “witch hunt” in the 21st Century? On the one hand, enormously powerful and corrupt men like Donald Trump toss the phrase around with ease, describing themselves as victims of witch hunts—is Trump calling himself a witch?—while reproducing the very systems that have incited actual witch hunts around the globe. On the other hand, most people in the global North associate witch hunts solely with the horrors of the European Middle Ages and colonial America, unaware that witch hunts continue to be a contemporary form of violence."

In recent years, the topic of ongoing witch hunts or incidents of violence against witches has received occasional attention in the media, with journalists often expressing horror about these extreme and irrational acts of violence (ex: India Struggles to Eradicate an Old Scourge: Witch Hunting – The New York Times ( Reports like these ultimately relegate the larger causes behind witch hunts to lingering superstitious practices among indigenous or traditional communities, where oppression of women drives the brutality of hunts. While the fear of witches may have some origins in superstitions and myths, persecution of witches and witch hunts are an outcome of the intersection between misogyny and complex structural problems linked by disadvantage and discrimination: poverty, displacement, war, land privatization, lack of adequate healthcare and sanitation, and climate disasters occurring within patriarchal societies.   Recent research and global reports have pointed out that persecution of witches is more prevalent than assumed and can take place in both rural and urban regions, where such violence is justified as a way of controlling suspicious and unruly women and maintaining their subordinate status vis-a-vis men.

But today the violent persecution of witches is not only directed at women who are scapegoated for a community’s problems, but it is also directed against “new witches,” to quote Silvia Federici, like Brazilian human rights activist Marielle Franco and the Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who were murdered for organizing against injustice  (see Witch Hunts Are Back — And This Time They're Targeting Female Activists | HuffPost Women). As in the Middle Ages, the witch hunts of today are used to silence women who threaten the existing social order, where women’s subordinate status is deemed necessary to nationalist and fascist political movements.

The witch hunt is also found in online trolling and public shame campaigns.  While we live in a time in which everyone, regardless of gender, is increasingly vulnerable to public shaming and cancellation, doxxing and violent threats against public feminists take heightened and misogynistic forms in which women’s bodies, rationality, authority, virtue, and very right to exist become questions for mass public debate. As media-fueled, symbolic witch hunts—from the “trials” of Anita Hill to Christine Ford— have shown us, contemporary witch hunts take not only individual women as their targets but also the feminist movement that these women are believed to represent.

In the global South, hijras and kotis, along with LGBTQ+ groups around the world, continue to face systemic violence—yet another form of witch hunt designed to send a public warning to people who dare to challenge gender norms and hierarchies. Whether historical or contemporary, in rural or urban communities, in religious or in secular contexts, witches (real, perceived, reclaimed, or labelled) are portrayed as malicious and deranged, traits that legitimize their persecution. Feminist and queer efforts to reclaim the witch as a healer, leader, safekeeper of traditional knowledge, magic practitioner, and revenge-seeker are always vulnerable to negation by those in power who will recast the witch’s work as a threat to all that is good and innocent.

How is it possible that horrific violence against witches in all their forms continues to be justified, and how can we collectively resist such violence and imagine a world in which such justifications no longer hold sway?

In this special issue we welcome contributions from intersectional and interdisciplinary queer and feminist scholars whose writing reinterprets the stigma, violence and brutality surrounding the varied manifestations of global feminist power that fall under the banner of the witch (real, perceived; labelled; reclaimed). We welcome contributions from authors located in global South and North.

Potential topics may include, but not limited to:

  • Misogyny and violence around witches
  • Homophobic and transphobic violence and witch hunts
  • Transformations in communities targeted by witch hunts
  • Violence against hijras and Kotis as a form of witch hunt
  • Characteristics of witch hunts and their various forms
  • Rhetorical/instrumental uses of the phrase “witch hunt” in political speech
  • Trauma and violence associated with hunts
  • 21st century activism against witch hunts
  • Local and global justice for victims and survivors of witch hunts
  • Creativity and art as a form of resistance for bitches and witches
  • The role of resilience, resistance, and activism against witch hunts
  • Feminist critiques of rationalism
  • Synergies between witch hunts in the global South and North
  • Legal protections and anti-witch hunt laws

Submission Instructions

To be considered for inclusion in this special issue, please send a tentative title, 200-250 word abstract to: Jane Ward ([email protected]) and Soma Chaudhuri ([email protected]) by May 30th, 2024. Any questions about the topic may also be directed to the special issue editors at the above e-mail addresses. Those invited to submit full papers (7000 words or fewer, all inclusive. See link for details on manuscript preparation: Submit to Journal of Gender Studies ( will be notified by June 30, 2024 and will be required to submit a full paper by November 01, 2024 for external peer review.

Instructions for Authors