01 Sep 2005
Pfeiffer J. (2005) Commodity Fetichismo, The Holy Spirit, and the turn to Pentecostal and African Independent Churches in Central Mozambique. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. 29: 255–283.
Pentecostal and African Independent Churches have rapidly spread throughout central Mozambique in the aftermath of war and in the midst of a recent structural adjustment program that has hastened commoditization of community life and intensified local inequalities. This extraordinary expansion signals a shift away from reliance on “traditional” healers to treat persistent afflictions believed to have spiritual causes. Survey data and illness narratives collected from recent church recruits and local residents during research in 2002 and 2003 in the city of Chimoio reveal that healers have increased fees and tailored treatments to clients searching for good fortune in ways that have alienated many other help seekers in this changing social environment. While traditional healing has been celebrated in the international health world, community attitudes are less generous; many healers are increasingly viewed with suspicion because of their engagement with malevolent occult forces to foment social conflict, competition, and confrontation for high fees. Church healing approaches offer free and less divisive spiritual protection reinforced by social support in a new collectivity. One vital source of church popularity derives from pastors’ efforts to tap the already considerable community anxiety over rising healer fees and their socially divisive treatments in an insecure environment.