The Pentecostal War Against Afro-Brazilian ‘Demons’ – Politics, Selfhood and Shared Experience of Spiritual Work in Southeast Brazil

Keywords: religious intolerance, Afro-Brazilian religions, Neo-Pentecostalism, Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, Umbanda

Abstract

This article discusses the religious conflict between Afro-Brazilian and Pentecostal groups shedding light on the complex relations between cross-religious experiences and the official acknowledgement of ‘religion’ in Brazil. The study analyses devotees and clients’ experiences in the rituals of Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus and Umbanda addressing fluid selfhoods and the multiple human and other-than-human agencies in the making of individual life trajectories through ritual participation. Thus, regarding religious conflict merely through bounded identities, institutions or dogma, the study shows that behind the fortifying religious conflict between Pentecostal and Afro-Brazilian religious groups relies a politically complex, colonially framed concept of ‘religion’ which leaves out of academic and political consideration a large part of effective ritual knowledge and agency, continuously re-producing the inferior position of ‘Afro-Brazilian religions’ within the Brazilian society. The analysis in this article is based on ethnographic field research carried out in Southeast Brazilian states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo during 2008-2015.

Author Biography

Eleonora Lundell, University of Helsinki

Eleonora Lundell has M.A. degree in Religion Studies and is currently preparing her doctoral dissertation in Latin American Studies, University of Helsinki. Lundell’s research focuses on religious change in contemporary Brazil, religious experience and ritual agency. She has conducted fieldwork in Southeast Brazil among Pentecostal and Afro-Brazilian religious groups and worked as a researcher in University of Helsinki research project: “Transforming the Future in Brazil: Ritual and Indigenous Agencies”.

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Published
2020-12-31