The Holy Spirit in the Household: Pentecostalism, Gender, and Neoliberalism in Mozambique

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Abstract

The recent expansion of Pentecostalism and independent churches in Africa has generated growing interest among social scientists. This attention parallels a renewed interest among Africanists on witchcraft and occult activities, also believed by many to be increasing. Some suggest the two trends may be related, but it remains unclear how and why. Drawing on a study of Pentecostalism and health in the city of Chimoio, Mozambique, in 2002–03 that focused on attitudes toward recent social change, we argue that structural adjustment economic reforms have deepened economic inequality and exacerbated household stresses that affect men and women differently. Women increasingly seek spiritual help for reproductive health problems from Pentecostal churches, whereas men disproportionately pay traditional healers to engage “occult” practices to manage misfortune related to employment. The increased resort to both spiritual resources reveals social distress caused by economic adjustment, with important implications for health programs.

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