Spirit Possession and Exorcism in Tanzania

Reflections on Participation, Perception and Spirituality


  • Katharina Wilkens Institute for the Study of Religions, University of Tübingen, Germany
  • Anna Daniel Sanga




Ethnographic fieldwork, reflexivity, friendship, perception


This article deals with two things. One, the process of ethnographic fieldwork on spiritual healing and exorcism in Tanzania is recounted from a personal perspective including some discussion of methods employed in participant observation and interviewing. Two, these methods and approaches are reflected upon critically on several levels. How does a German scholar of religion learn to do things and perceive things as a Tanzanian would? How does cross-cultural friendship help to navigate this process? The members of the group in focus, the Marian Faith Healing Ministry, were excommunicated by the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church in Tanzania in the 1990s, which makes it necessary to reflect on the researcher’s position in intra-ecclesial politics. And lastly, the disconnect of spirit voices, sensory perceptions and storytelling, on the one hand, and psychiatric explanations of multiple personalities, on the other hand, is reflected upon within the framework of current approaches in the aesthetics of religion.




How to Cite

Wilkens, K., & Sanga, A. D. (2024). Spirit Possession and Exorcism in Tanzania: Reflections on Participation, Perception and Spirituality. Marburg Journal of Religion, 25(1). https://doi.org/10.17192/mjr.2024.25.8696