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Christy Schuetze Spotlights Mozambican Women’s Care Networks in New Ethnography

Christy Schuetze (left) and cover of book entitled Spirit Wives and Church Mothers: Marriage, Survival, and Healing in Central Mozambique

In her ethnography Spirit Wives and Church Mothers: Marriage, Survival, and Healing in Central Mozambique (University of Wisconsin Press, 2023), Associate Professor of Anthropology Christy Schuetze details central Mozambique’s distinctive religious tapestry while challenging Western feminist assumptions about women’s liberation.

“This book is the culmination of many years of ethnographic field research that was built on a foundation of enduring relationships with the women at the center of the research,” says Schuetze.

Since the early 21st century, Pentecostal churches have spread worldwide and shifted Christianity’s center of gravity from the West to the Global South. In central Mozambique, a country located in southeastern Africa, the expansion of Pentecostalism coincided with a revival of traditional religious practices including new forms of spirit mediumship.

“I wrote the book in a way that aims to be accessible to non-specialists and to provide readers a deep understanding of the many ways political economic context shapes the forms of and the possibilities for ‘women’s empowerment,’” she says. 

Schuetze’s ethnography illustrates how women, who are the overwhelming majority of participants in these Pentecostal churches as well as new formations of spirit mediumship, utilize their religious communities and the spirit world to gain access to material security, social stability, and greater well-being for themselves and their children.

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