Accepted paper:

Aesthetics of Community: Ritual and identity in Brazilian Pentecostalism

Authors:

George St. Clair (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

The development of religious subjectivities through structured ritual action is often described as an individual process of becoming. In this paper, however, I show how the distinctive aesthetic environment of an avowedly anti-materialist church leads intstead to a developing sense of group complicity.

Paper long abstract:

The development of religious subjectivities through structured ritual action is often described as an individual process of becoming. In this paper, however, I show how the distinctive aesthetic environment of an avowedly anti-materialist church leads instead to a strong sense of group complicity. The Congregacao Crista, Brazil's oldest Pentecostal church, eschews all forms of material idolatry, and maintains an antiquated aesthetic and highly conservative customs, including the strict separation of women and men. In the congregation I studied within the mega-city of Sao Paulo, the peculiar, anachronistic environment of church practice provided a distinctive aesthetic experience for the participants which contrasted sharply with their mundane lives. Among believers, joining this chuirch primarily implies conversion to its idiosyncratic customs, and it involves an unfolding awareness of being part of a separate, saved comunity.

panel P05
Aesthetics of conversion