This paper uses the history of the religious/healing movement Kitawala in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a lens to explore the relationship between forms of state-sanctioned “customary” authority and alternative nodes of “authority that is customary.”

Focusing on three different case studies from different eras of the colonial and post-colonial history of Kitawala, the article explores the history of how the movement became part of the broad field of authority in Congo – at times cutting across, at times transforming, and at times subverting or fracturing the authority of customary chiefs.