The  ISFNR Belief Narrative Network Online Lectures deal with folk beliefs of all kinds, and the narratives that are used to pass them on. The idea is that in the first week of each month, various international scholars present pre-recorded lectures on the subject of their choice which will later go on to be freely available on the ISFNR web site to anyone who wishes to make use of them as part of their research or in their teaching. The initial on-line showing is  nonetheless always followed by a half an hour live on-line zoom meeting in which those who attend will be able to ask the speaker questions. 

The lectures take place on the first Friday of each month at 17.00 Central European time, except during the summer months of July and August. 

Next lecture

Adelaida Caballero

"From sex with demon mermaids to ritual vivisections: Women’s stories and how they are changing in Equatorial Guinea (2014 – 2024)"

March 01, 2024. at 5 p.m. CET

Speaker's Biography:

Adelaida Caballero (Mexico 1986) is a writer, editor, and researcher. She holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from Uppsala University. Her work analyzes routinized forms of violence in relation to ethnic and identitarian discourses in authoritarian contexts. Her doctoral dissertation, Shortchanged: Elderly Women Street Vendors in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, is an ethnographic exploration of what it means to be a woman and a person in an Afro-Bantu traditionalist dictatorship. Adelaida is also a published poet and the coordinator of Habitación 323, a pro-bono initiative that offers literary workshops and basic editorial training to young Equatoguinean writers who struggle against the lack of freedom of press in the country.


As of January 2024, the little-known nation of Equatorial Guinea (West/Central Africa) is the world’s longest running dictatorship. A five decade-long history of politically motivated violence, combined with pervasive African discourses that link power and wealth with occult practices, makes people live in a permanent state of anxiety. Given the traditionalist streak of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s brand of authoritarianism, women are susceptible to routinized forms of violence that range from gender prejudice to systematic sexual exploitation. Guineana women cope with their vulnerability by telling stories that make their experiences graspable and communicable. These stories, however, are changing. Previously featuring ‘traditional’ elements such as witchcraft passed down through the generations and sex pacts with demon mermaids, women’s stories now focus on acts of direct bodily harm such as kidnappings and ritual vivisections for the purpose of cannibalism allegedly practiced by ambitious politicians. Building on ethnographic material collected over a span of ten years and two long-term periods of anthropological fieldwork in Malabo, the Equatoguinean capital, my presentation seeks to understand how and why women’s stories are changing. It suggests that as political instability and economic precarity have increased over the past decade, preexisting fears toward the prospect of occult aggression have resulted in factual episodes of untold violence, subsequently turning women’s coping narratives into shocking cautionary tales about the dangers of mingling with ruthless ‘big men’.