University of Wisconsin Press colophon



University of Wisconsin Madison crest that links to main university site

Association of University Presses member logo that links to main AUPresses site



Catalog Archive / Spring 2023

Spirit Wives and Church Mothers
Marriage, Survival, and Healing in Central Mozambique

Women in Africa and the Diaspora
Stanlie M. James and Aili Mari Tripp, Founding Editors

“This ethnography is alive, giving the reader a wonderful window into life as lived in Central Mozambique. Bringing together spirit mediumship and Pentecostalism, Christy Schuetze shows how women living under patriarchy gain access to material security and social well-being by calling on both religious communities and the spirit world.”
—Sónia Silva, Skidmore College

Examining the simultaneous expansion of two emergent, rival healing networks

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, Pentecostal churches have proliferated around the world. Expanding at astonishing rates in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, Pentecostalism has shifted Christianity’s global center of gravity from the West to the global South. In Spirit Wives and Church Mothers, Christy Schuetze explores how the growth of Pentecostal churches in central Mozambique occurred alongside a striking increase in so—called traditional religious practices such as spirit mediumship and spiritual healing. She follows women—who comprise the majority both of participants in Pentecostal churches and of initiates to new forms of mediumship—through two emergent, rival healing networks.

Drawing on years of field research, Schuetze offers a richly drawn ethnographic analysis of these important religious transformations in the lives of female participants. Illustrating how economic and social context shapes the possibilities for—and forms of—women’s empowerment, Spirit Wives and Church Mothers intervenes in scholarly debates about the nature of agency and challenges universalist Western feminist assumptions about the form of women’s liberation.


Christy Schuetze. Christy Schuetze, associate professor of anthropology at Swarthmore College, has conducted extensive fieldwork in Mozambique for more than twenty years. She is the author of numerous articles on religious experience, witchcraft, and conservation.




“Provides readers with a wonderfully realistic sense of what life feels like for many women in rural sub-Saharan Africa. . . . Anyone who wants to understand how economic development, health care, marriage, family, and religion actually work (or often do not work) for rural African women should read this book.”
CHOICE Reviews



Download Cover: color | b/w

Download Author Photo: color | b/w

Request Review Copy

Request Exam Copy


Table of Contents



1. The World is Upside Down: Reordering Society in a World Out of Balance

PART I: Spirits and Suffering in Historical and Contemporary Contexts
2. The Production and Integration of Suffering: Social Healing Across Generations
3. Economic Exclusion: The Search for Cash on the Margins
4. A Precarious World: The Hospital as Complementary Medicine

Part II: Searching for Stability
5. Misfortune and Women’s Vulnerability in Marriage
6. Becoming a Spirit Wife: Managing Spirits and the Dangers of Marriage
7. Bargaining with Patriarchy: Pentecostal Church Women and Social Renewal




Of Related Interest

Shaping Tradition: Cover showing a green background with a red circle on the left side that contains the title text. A photo rests along the bottom of the page that shows an Agwagune cultural gathering.

Shaping Tradition
Women’s Roles in Ceremonial Rituals of the Agwagune
David Uru Iyam

Religious Entanglements: cover depicting a painting of an African man staring directly at the viewer. To his left, a maze-like geometric design climbs up the page, leading to the title text, written in an orange block at the top of the page.

Religious Entanglements
Central African Pentecostalism, the Creation of Cultural Knowledge, and the Making of the Luba Katanga
David Maxwell

Book Title

Larger images

August 2023
286 pp. 6 x 9

Book icon
Cloth $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299343804
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
Review Cart