Doctor of Philosophy – Arts student profile: Matthew Mabefam
Matthew Mabefam in the Old Quadrangle, Faculty of Arts
PhD candidate Matthew Mabefam is undertaking research examining the efficacy of witchcraft beliefs and practices in Ghana, exploring how their increasing presence in communities like those in Ghana poses problems for development.
Mabefam’s interest in witches, witchcraft and development began early in life, but his academic interest was piqued when he undertook fieldwork with Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Grameen Ghana in northern Ghana as part of his undergraduate studies. Meeting with older women who had been accused of witchcraft left an impact: he was struck by how these women had been ostracised and deprived of basic needs and any means to economic self-sufficiency.
“They struggled to survive and to provide for themselves and their dependents”, he says. “Indeed, their families continued to depend on them and yet neither the broader kinship group, social networks, nor state institutions seemed able to break from the customary beliefs and practices to challenge or ameliorate the women’s circumstances following the accusations. I sought to understand why this was so.”
Mabefam moved to Melbourne to undertake a PhD at the University of Melbourne, attracted by the strength of his prospective research supervisory committee and the understanding that he would be supported while undertaking his research.
“The most rewarding aspect of my experience here has been the creation of a supportive and enabling environment by my supervisory team. This has made me feel connected to a group of people who have gone all out to mentor me”, he says. “Pushing me beyond my comfort zone, their training led to the refinement of my ideas, writing skills and a broader understanding of PhD research and administration.”