Wednesday, Sept. 23, 4:30 p.m.-5:30p.m.
In this presentation, Assistant Professor of Anthropology Christy Schuetze offers an overview of her book manuscript. The culmination of more than 7 years spent living and working in Mozambique since 1998, the book explores the nature of rural women’s involvement in two very different and rapidly growing religious movements—the exponential growth of Pentecostal churches and a simultaneous proliferation of female spirit mediums. In this presentation, Schuetze analyzes these phenomenon through the lens of social healing, revealing how women are engaged in collective efforts to reorder society that improve their social position and the stability of their domestic relationships. Rather than seeking individual “empowerment,” women in Gorongosa are leading broader efforts of social renewal. And, in an apparent paradox, rather than liberation from patriarchal structures, these social healing efforts draw on and strengthen the logics of patriarchal authority and power. Indeed, in Pentecostal church participation and in the work of growing numbers of female spirit mediums, women are channeling masculine sources of authority to strengthen their position in the domestic sphere.
Women’s spirit possession has often been analyzed as a disguised form of protest against the abuses of patriarchal authority, whereas, in sharp contrast, feminist scholars have critiqued the teachings of Pentecostal churches as religious ideology that serves to “keep women under patriarchal control.” Paying close attention to the historical and political and economic context for these religious changes in central Mozambique Schuetze shows how, despite their apparent and real opposition as different approaches to social healing, the overall contours of women’s participation in Pentecostal church groups is quite similar to that of spirit mediums, both offering women new degrees of control and stability in their lives. In the end, analysis of this context offers important correctives to universalist feminist narratives that liken agency to protest against male domination and offers a view into a context where women’s desires and interests relate to collective wellbeing over individual advancement.