Series:

Lotta Gammelin

Abstract

Gospel Miracle Church for All People (gmcl) in Mbeya, Tanzania, founded and led by Prophet Mpanji has a healing and exorcism session as the culmination point of each Sunday service. This healing is loud, spectacular and gendered. Most of the sick are women in their reproductive years and spirit possession causing the sicknesses is related to female sexuality. Often it is the female ancestors or living elderly women involved in witchcraft who are behind the problems and thus this practice can be interpreted as creating a break with the past. Problems with fertility occur constantly among the sick women that can also relate to spirits using women sexually for procreating additional demons. They also portray women’s loss of agency and control over their lives. The stories of healing and practices of healing can be seen as control over female sexuality and fertility while healing is also restoration of moral agency.

Lotta Gammelin

Abstract1

The popularity of faith-healing in sub-Saharan Africa has been widely acknowledged in research, but mostly treated as a phenomenon apart, instead of being viewed in relation to other modes of healing. In this article I focus on the reasons why believers choose faith-healing in a medically pluralistic situation and how they see other healing options available in a locally founded Charismatic church community, the Gospel Miracle Church for All People (GMCL), in the Southern Tanzanian city of Mbeya. I propose that, in order to see the medically pluralistic context in Tanzania through the journeys of health-seeking nomads, the focus must lie on two intertwined aspects of faith-healing: first, it is inevitably based on the need to be healed and speaks of a failure of biomedicine to explain illness and provide healing; and second, the long journeys that are made in search of healing mean traversing boundaries and switching between parallel healing systems: biomedicine, traditional healing, and faith-healing. While health seeking nomads are in many ways in a vulnerable position, I suggest that their ability to move from one healing option to another speaks of agency: not in the sense of full control over their life situations but, rather, as a way of coming to terms with their illness.