Gamba Spirits, Gender Relations and Healing in Post-Civil War Gorongosa, Mozambique


Igreja, Victor, Béatrice Dias-Lambranca, and Annemiek Richters. 2008. “Gamba Spirits, Gender Relations and Healing in Post-Civil War Gorongosa, Mozambique.” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 14 (2): 353-71.

Authors: Victor Igreja, Béatrice Dias-Lambranca, Annemiek Richters


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 focalpoint 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 ofpost-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 arecreated and reproduced, and we reinforce approaches to possession that see it as constituted by ‘apractice and politics of voice’ (Lambek).

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Gender, Women, Men, Health, Trauma, Households, Humanitarian Assistance, Context-Appropriate Response to Trauma, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Mozambique

Year: 2008

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