Black Atlantic Religion

Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomble

J. Lorand Matory
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 376
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7spvj
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    Black Atlantic Religion
    Book Description:

    Black Atlantic Religionilluminates the mutual transformation of African and African-American cultures, highlighting the example of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion. This book contests both the recent conviction that transnationalism is new and the long-held supposition that African culture endures in the Americas only among the poorest and most isolated of black populations. In fact, African culture in the Americas has most flourished among the urban and the prosperous, who, through travel, commerce, and literacy, were well exposed to other cultures. Their embrace of African religion is less a "survival," or inert residue of the African past, than a strategic choice in their circum-Atlantic, multicultural world.

    With counterparts in Nigeria, the Benin Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad, and the United States, Candomblé is a religion of spirit possession, dance, healing, and blood sacrifice. Most surprising to those who imagine Candomblé and other such religions as the products of anonymous folk memory is the fact that some of this religion's towering leaders and priests have been either well-traveled writers or merchants, whose stake in African-inspired religion was as much commercial as spiritual. Morever, they influenced Africa as much as Brazil. Thus, for centuries, Candomblé and its counterparts have stood at the crux of enormous transnational forces.

    Vividly combining history and ethnography, Matory spotlights a so-called "folk" religion defined not by its closure or internal homogeneity but by the diversity of its connections to classes and places often far away.Black Atlantic Religionsets a new standard for the study of transnationalism in its subaltern and often ancient manifestations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3397-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-37)

    This is a story of Africa in the Americas. But it is just as much a story about the Americas in Africa, in defiance of the outmoded supposition that internal integration and the isomorphism of cultures with local populations are the normal conditions of social life. This story suggests that lifeways, traditions, and the social boundaries they substantiate endure notdespitetheir involvement in translocal dialogues butbecauseof it. Candomblé (pronounced cahn-dome-BLEH, with a final vowel sound resembling theein “pet”) is one such lifeway and tradition, which is both the product and one of the greatest producers...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The English Professors of Brazil ON THE DIASPORIC ROOTS OF THE YORÙBÁ NATION
    (pp. 38-72)

    Are homelands to diasporas as the past is to the present? Is Africa to the black Americas as the past is to the present? Much in the conventional writing of cultural history would suggest that it is. This chapter both revises existing narrations of African-diaspora cultural history and proposes, at the Afro–Latin American locus classicus of Herskovitsian studies, some nonlinear alternatives to Herskovits’s and others’ visions of diasporas generally. I argue here that slavery and African-American isolation from the major trends of Euro-American culture were probably not the typical conditions under which African-inspired culture flourished in the Americas (see...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Trans-Atlantic Nation RETHINKING NATIONS AND TRANSNATIONALISM
    (pp. 73-114)

    In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, at the same time that white creoles were “imagining” and reifying a nation called Brazil, Africans in Brazil and along the Lower Guinea coast were “imagining” and sustaining a nation of a sortunimagined by Benedict Anderson. And it is with no sense of irony—and with no demand for correction—that these Africans and their descendants in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion still speak of their trans-Atlantic communities as nations. I respect this parlance throughout the book not becauseIregard it as the appropriate analytic category—in some ways, “denomination” would be...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Purity and Transnationalism ON THE TRANSFORMATION OF RITUAL IN THE YORUBA-ATLANTIC DIASPORA
    (pp. 115-148)

    Amid the proliferation of self-consciously hybrid postcolonial identities, why do leading adherents of Candomblé embrace and, as we shall see, embody the principle that their material and spiritual well-being depends on purity? And there is a further puzzle posed by my own two decades of ethnographic inquiry among Nigeria, Brazil, and the Caribbean Latino diaspora: Why is it that Brazilian Nagô Candomblé and the Cuban Lucumí Regla de Ocha pursue ritual objectives of “purity” and “cleansing” that are virtually absent from the cognate Nigerianòrìṣàreligions that are typically regarded as their origins?

    Mary Douglas (1984[1966]:92) argued that, in “primitive”...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Candomblé’s Newest Nation: Brazil
    (pp. 149-187)

    Any given “imagination” of community is less an evolutionary stage or a consensus than one position in an ongoing “struggle for the possession of the sign,” to borrow Hebdige’s phrase (1979). Candomblé is one of the signs most struggled over in the imagining of Brazil, of the Northeastern region, and of the transnational Black community. This chapter charts Brazilian nationalists’ construction of Candomblé as a “folk” emblem of a “racially democratic” nation-state. It also charts the forms of risk and advantage this literary and journalistic representation has entailed for the cosmopolitan and often highly educated priests of the Jeje and...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Para Inglês Ver SEX, SECRECY, AND SCHOLARSHIP IN THE YORÙBÁ-ATLANTIC WORLD
    (pp. 188-223)

    Not only ditties, like Pedrito’s, but also clichés reveal social history. The Brazilian expressionpara inglês ver(for the English to see) describes acts of subterfuge and self-camouflage—presenting a facade to outsiders and dominant parties who might respond with contempt or punishment if they knew the truth. One story reports that the expression originated during the 19th century, after the British outlawed the maritime slave trade to Brazil in 1830 and slave traders developed means of camouflaging the slave ships to avoid capture by the British navy. The false appearance of an innocent maritime commerce was “for the English...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Man in the “City of Women”
    (pp. 224-266)

    Like me, Pai Francisco lives in a place where multiple old and new transnational flows converge. Therefore, our friendship is new, the novel convergence of two sites of convergence—one African-Brazilian, the other African-U.S. On the other hand, our friendship recapitulates the old and truly circum-Atlantic circuits that long ago united Africa, the United States, England, France, Cuba, and Brazil—during the Lagosian Cultural Renaissance, the Négritude movement, and Afro-Cubanismo, as well as the circuits that have lately wrought the Yorùbá Cultural Renaissance now sweeping African-American and Latino immigrant communities in the United States (Matory forthcoming a). These transnational flows...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Conclusion THE AFRO-ATLANTIC DIALOGUE
    (pp. 267-294)

    Candomblé is a field site defined not by its closure or its internal homogeneity but by the diversity of its connections to classes and places that are often far away. At the root of this diversity is the universally human capacity of worshipers to imagine their belonging in multiple communities that crosscut any given community, encompass it, or even distinguish themselves from it. Hence, the “survival” of African practices, or “cognitive orientations,” and the adaptive requirements of white-dominated American institutions are entirely inadequate to explain the shape of Candomblé. This Afro-Brazilian religion thrives and grows because of strategic verbal and...

  12. APPENDIX A Geechees and Gullahs THE LOCUS CLASSICUS OF AFRICAN “SURVIVALS” IN THE UNITED STATES
    (pp. 295-298)
  13. APPENDIX B The Origins of the Term “Jeje”
    (pp. 299-300)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 301-342)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 343-368)
  16. Index
    (pp. 369-383)