Nicole Eggers

  • Fellowship year:2012-2013
  • University: University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Africa
  • Dissertation Title: Kitawala In The Congo: Religion, Politics and Healing in 20th Century Central Africa
  •  My dissertation traces the winding trajectory of Kitawala, one of the most influential religious movements of  20th-century Congolese history, from its colonial beginnings in the 1920s to its present day resurgence in the most conflict-ridden parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Based on extensive field research in the eastern DRC, the dissertation uses Kitawala as a lens through which to address the complex relationship between politics, religion, and healing in Central African history. As a movement historically associated with anti-colonial uprisings and politically subversive ideology, Kitawala has long been viewed by scholars through a political lens - as a form of resistance or "peasant political consciousness." Yet both oral and archival evidence suggest that Kitawalists themselves were, and are, equally concerned with health and healing, on both the communal and individual levels. In my dissertation, I seek to reframe the discussion of Kitawala in light of such evidence, placing it within a regional history of social health. In the process, I demonstrate how these two narrative of Kitawalist history - as a "political/resistance movement" and as "healing movement" - are inextricably connected. Neither narrative can be understood absent of the other, and both revolve around deeply rooted and historically dynamic Congolese ideas about power and how it can and should be imagined, accessed, and wielded by communities and individuals. By focusing on power, and its intellectual and social history in Congo, I create an analytical space in which the differing manifestations of Kitiwala over time and space - from its overtly political moments to those more aptly characterized as individual quests for therapy - can be read as varying themes the of same story.