First Advisor

Kathleen Merrow

Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Sexuality, Gender, and Queer Studies and University Honors


Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies




Witch hunting -- Europe -- History, Witches -- Europe -- History, Queer theory, Feminist theory, Demonolog




Patriarchy, sexism, and religious fanaticism each played a complementary and compounding role in creating the conditions for the brutal campaign of violent terror, torture, and mass murder that we now refer to as the early modern European witch hunts. In this paper I explore, by way of a cross-discipline literature review through a feminist and queer theoretical lens, the ways in which those who were accused of being witches in early modern Europe were rendered queer subjects by dominant organized religion, the state and society--regardless of whether they ever actually identified as witches or practiced witchcraft. The term queer subject here refers to a marginalized positionality where one is made queer relative to dominant power and consequently suffers the resulting deleterious effects on quality of life, life chances and even survival. I explore how individuals accused of witchcraft were targeted not for any crimes or damage that could be proven at trial, but for harmless personal attributes or behaviors that were observed or alleged--often related to undesirable events that said alleged behavior purportedly precipitated. I cast new light on the ways in which such naturally occurring attributes and mundane behaviors were very literally demonized and used as damning evidence against those accused. Indeed, gender, age, physical attributes, and alleged sexual practices--along with other types of behavior--were almost always a factor in the persecution, accusation, arrest, torture, prosecution, and murder of people accused of witchcraft, the vast majority of whom were women.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier