Selka, “Black Catholicism in Brazil”

April 15, 2014

Selka, Stephen.  2014.  Black Catholicism in Brazil.  Journal of Africana Religions 2(2): 287-295.

Abstract: Studies of Afro-Brazilian religion have tended to focus on Candomblé and other African-derived religions, and this is especially true in studies focused on the northeastern state of Bahia. Indeed, Bahia has long been imagined as a kind of living museum where African culture has been preserved in the Americas, a place where Christianity appears only as a thin veneer. This article focuses on my work on the intersection of Candomblé and Catholicism and more specifically on the Afro-Catholic Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death (Irmandade de Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte, or simply Boa Morte), whose members are women of African descent involved with Candomblé. Because of its grounding in African-derived religion, observers often wonder whether the sisterhood’s yearly festival is actually Candomblé ritual masquerading as a Catholic celebration. I argue that behind this question is the questionable presumption that Catholicism is somehow epiphenomenal in Afro-Brazilian religious life, a view that I contend is rooted in specific racial ideologies and cultural nationalisms and stems from certain ideas concerning the relationship between religion and belief.

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