Health-seeking nomads and faith-healing in a medically pluralistic context in Mbeya, Tanzania

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Religious Studies


  • Charismatic Christianity, Faith-healing, Health seeking behavior, Medical pluralism, Tanzania, Vulnerability
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-264
Number of pages20
JournalMission Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan 1
Publication categoryResearch