Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, LATIN AMERICAN HISTORY (oxfordre.com/latinamericanhistory). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 31 October 2020

Africans in Brazil and Afro-Brazilian Religion and Culturelocked

  • Luis Nicolau ParésLuis Nicolau ParésDepartment of Anthropology, Universidade Federal da Bahia

Summary

Of the estimated 4.9 million African captives disembarked in Brazil, 70 % were shipped from Central Africa, 24 % from West Africa, and the remaining 6 % from the East Coast of the continent. Despite their diverse political and cultural backgrounds, Africans were classified by slavers with a discrete number of generic categories often referred to as “nations.” The enslaved appropriation of such external labels, like Mina and Angola—distinguishing Western and Central Africans respectively—resulted in the formation of new collective identities. The novel ways of colonial belonging and behavior shaped and expressed themselves as distinct forms of Afro-Brazilian culture when organized around social institutions such as Catholic lay brotherhoods or other African-inspired associative dynamics. Religious practice, including music, language, bodily performance, cooking and dress, became a privileged domain for African cultural production, subsequently irradiating into other secular manifestations. The colonial calundu, concerned with healing and oracular functionalities, greatly influenced by the Bantu-speaking people, coexisted and intermingled with the more ecclesiastical West-African traditions of initiatory ritual dedicated to the worship of multiple deities. Despite common elements of celebration, healing and mediumship, Afro-Brazilian religious pluralism was historically marked by an extraordinary eclecticism. Different local interactions with the hegemonic Iberian Catholicism, Amerindian healing practices and French Spiritism, together with the circulation of people and ideas between Africa and Brazil after the end of the Atlantic slave trade, led to a wide range of regional variation. This heterogeneous Afro-Brazilian religious field, prone to continuous discrimination and selective tolerance by the authorities, is stressed by a discursive contrast between the alleged traditional pure African forms and the mixed syncretic Brazilian ones, all claiming their share of legitimacy and ritual efficiency.

Subjects

  • Latin American History
  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)
  • Slavery and Abolition of Slavery
  • Slavery and Abolition of Slavery

You do not currently have access to this article

Login

Please login to access the full content.

Subscribe

Access to the full content requires a subscription