His mother became medicine: drinking problems, ethical transformation and maternal care in central Uganda


Excessive alcohol consumption often appears as an issue of great concern for the friends and family members of drinkers in Uganda, where per capita consumption rates among drinkers are among the highest in the world. In many cases, these families seek care for their loved ones in small shops run by herbalists, in the shrines of spirit mediums, in the pews of churches, or in one of several newly established in-patient rehabilitation centres. Yet, acts of intervention come not only from living family members or friends, but also from an array of spiritual beings who may come uninvited and outside of intentional therapeutic contexts. In this article, we consider a case in which a mother’s spirit intervenes in the life of her son, first by possessing his body and then continuing to dwell there in ways that make it impossible for him to drink. This case highlights the importance forces experienced as non-self in life-transforming processes and demands that we attend to a moment in which the work of care is achieved through an act of physical force.

Last updated on 11/26/2020