Nagô Grandma and White Papa

Nagô Grandma and White Papa: Candomblé and the Creation of Afro-Brazilian Identity

Beatriz Góis Dantas
TRANSLATED BY Stephen Berg
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807898482_dantas
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  • Book Info
    Nagô Grandma and White Papa
    Book Description:

    Nago Grandma and White Papais a signal work in Brazilian anthropology and African diaspora studies originally published in Brazil in 1988. This edition makes Beatriz Gois Dantas's historioethnographic study available to an English-speaking audience for the first time.Dantas compares the formation of Yoruba (Nago) religious traditions and ethnic identities in the Brazilian states of Sergipe and Bahia, revealing how they diverged from each other due to their different social and political contexts and needs. By tracking how markers of supposedly "pure" ethnic identity and religious practice differed radically from one place to another, Dantas shows the social construction of identity within a network of class-related demands and alliances. She demonstrates how the shape and meaning of "purity" have been affected by prolonged and complex social and cultural mixing, compromise, and struggle over time. Ethnic identity, as well as social identity in general, is formed in the crucible of political relations between social groups that purposefully mobilize and manipulate cultural markers to define their respective boundaries-a process, Dantas argues, that must be applied to understanding the experience of African-descended people in Brazil.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0548-7
    Subjects: History, Anthropology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    As an analytical field, the study of so-called Afro-Brazilian¹ religions—and of Candomblé in particular—has traditionally privileged cultural contents and their specificities in addition to the search for their origins. Continuous allusion to Africa and the unceasing search for Africanisms (begun at the start of the nineteenth century with Nina Rodrigues) have taken on various forms, from the simple, mechanical comparison of cultural traits whose resemblance to African counterparts is presented as proof of “survivals” (Rodrigues, 1935, 1977; Ramos, 1951, 1961) all the way to studies that attempt to present the persistence of cultural traits as part of a...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Configuration of Prestige in Xangô Terreiros
    (pp. 9-29)

    A flourishing city in the state of Sergipe’s sugarproducing region during the nineteenth century, Laranjeiras is considered the initial focal point and strongest center of Nagô tradition in the state (Oliveira, 1978), as well as a city in which so-called Afro-Brazilian cults vigorously proliferate.

    There are sixteen places of worship in this urban area and an almost identical number distributed throughout the various county villages.¹ The county possesses an area of 161 square kilometers and a population of 13,280, of which 5,150 live within the municipal seat. Although theterreiros’ network of influence is not circumscribed to municipal—or even...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Nagô Speaks of Itself
    (pp. 30-64)

    In studies of Afro-Brazilian religions—particularly those concerning the Nagô Candomblé—the history ofterreirosand the genealogies of their leaders are often presented as proof of a continuity with Africa which attests to the fact that it is a certain set of cultural features experienced in theterreirosthat constitutes the purest, most legitimate African tradition.

    Insofar as it assigns great importance to explaining the present through a tradition that is always associated with the group’s past and, specifically, with its African origins, this methodological position is a consequence of genetic orientation and the search for Africanisms that has deeply marked anthropological...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Nagô Speaks of “the Others”
    (pp. 65-84)

    Although she initially differentiates cults that came from Africa from those established in Brazil, themãe-de-santodistinguishes different forms of relationship to different African ethnicities among the former.

    “In the old days, all you had in Laranjeiras was Nagô and Malê. They both came from Africa. This means they belonged to another class. They didn’t celebratesanto. They were more likecrentes[literally, believers or Protestants]. They didn’t set their faith in saints. They used rosaries in their rituals, and a stick that they struck upon a table. Ceremonies were held during the month of August. We have ritual obligations and their...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Construction and Meaning of “Nagô Purity”
    (pp. 85-133)

    In this chapter, I return to certainly previously stated ideas, to differences in the features of Nagô purity as conceived within the Laranjeirasterreiroand in the “pure Nagô” Candombléterreirosof Bahia.

    Because the ideology of purity presupposes the existence of an original state, a sort of cultural sanctuary protected from the deforming influences of foreign elements, one might expect theterreirosthat identify themselves as Nagô and that surely had common origins and a common cultural heritage to define their purity according to a common set of cultural traits. If the original stock of symbolic goods is the same...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Uses of Africa by the Nagô Terreiro
    (pp. 134-149)

    In this chapter I propose to analyze how the intellectual movement that glorified the African is reflected in a small city of the Northeast and how the Nagôterreiroof Laranjeiras, having established its exclusivity of pure African tradition, uses such glorification in the competitive market of symbolic goods. At a more restricted level, I propose to see how this process develops within the local religious field and, at a more inclusive level, how it occurs in the broader segment of symbolic goods that make up what might be generically called “the traditions of the city.” This alludes to its...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 150-154)

    Throughout this work Nagô hegemony has been an ever-recurring problem. In their attempts to come to grips with it, Brazilian black studies scholars have resorted to various factors. Nina Rodrigues, who initially explained it through the numerical predominance of the Nagôs over the other African peoples introduced here, amplified his schema to include diffusion of the language and organization of Nagô priesthood as factors of this hegemony (Rodrigues, 1977: 215).

    This point of view is much more elaborately proposed by Édison Carneiro. Taking economic, demographic, social, and cultural factors into account, he argues that, as a consequence “of the social...

  11. Glossary
    (pp. 155-160)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 161-178)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-184)
  14. Index
    (pp. 185-198)