Why Are there always Candomblés? Situated knowledges of miscegenation and syncretism in Brazil

Departmental Seminar Trinity Term 2018

Fridays, Weeks 2-5, 3.15pm, Pitt Rivers Museum Lecture Theatre (off Robinson Close)

This paper begins with a brief presentation on the nature of so-called Afro-Brazilian religions that I have been researching for a long time and that provide my ethnographic starting point here. Then, I will try to present a brief overview of the field of studies on these religions. I will sustain that this field is marked by a fundamental socio-political concern: how to conceive a nation composed of too many differences — concern which is the reason for the central place occupied in the field by the topics of syncretism and miscegenation. Finally, based on a contrast between the dominant theories on these themes and those we can find in the groups we study, I will try to present my position on the role of anthropology of Afro-Brazilian religions in this debate.

An Anthropology of the Controversial

We live in unsettling times. Climate change, global income inequality, and populist politics prompt hand-wringing and moral panics, while mainstream analysis often barely scratches the surface of complex issues. Anthropological perspectives are needed, but the speed, length, and framework of public discourse on controversial issues make it challenging to reach audiences beyond a narrow group of specialists. Too, research on controversial topics presents methodological and analytical challenges related to access, data protection, representation, and complex obligations to research participants that, while not new, are intensified by political circumstances. This seminar series explores what an anthropology of the controversial might look like.