Gamba spirits, gender relations, and healing in post-civil war Gorongosa, Mozambique

Igreja, Victor and Dias-Lambranca, Beatrice and Richters, Annemiek (2008) Gamba spirits, gender relations, and healing in post-civil war Gorongosa, Mozambique. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute , 14 (2). pp. 350-367. ISSN 1359-0987


This article describes the ways in which in post-civil war Gorongosa (central Mozambique), women (and occasionally men) with personal and/or family experiences of extreme suffering are the focal point of possession by male, war-related spirits named gamba. However, gamba spirits also create post-war healing in which memory work and gender politics play an essential role. This type of post-war healing is demonstrated through a secret, contractual ceremony in which a male living suitor demands permission from a gamba spirit, lodged in the body of a young woman (his deemed wife), to marry that woman. An account of the ceremony is preceded by a description of the conditions that gave rise to the emergence of gamba spirits in central Mozambique, and is followed by an analysis of the meaning of the voice of the spirit and its impact on the relation between the living husband and wife and, more generally, on Gorongosa post-war society. We argue that the performance of gamba spirits contributes to a certain form of moral renewal. In the process, we locate relationships between spirits and hosts within wider systems of meaning in which they are created and reproduced, and we reinforce approaches to possession that see it as constituted by ‘a practice and politics of voice’ (Lambek).

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Access to published version in accordance with copyright policy of publisher.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Arts - Department of Humanities and International Studies
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2018 23:31
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2018 23:31
Uncontrolled Keywords: Possession
Fields of Research : 16 Studies in Human Society > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2008.00506.x

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