The power of submission: personal growth and the issue of power among Umbanda practitioners in Paris
Viola Teisenhoffer (LESC (CNRS) / Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
n France, Umbanda represents an attractive religious alternative for French weary of catholicism who undertake a spiritual quest enrolling in New Age practices in order to achieve what they call spiritual development. Participants seek to achieve well-being and balance, or health in its broadest sense, conveyed by mediumistic development which is, in this context, equivalent to spiritual growth. Although devotees intend to integrate an egalitarian spiritual brotherhood, field data shows that spiritual growth defines power relations within the shrine house. It is what determines the groups' particular organization, as well as the modalities of the transmission of ritual and theological knowledge, the former being characterized by a permanent tension between submission and empowerment, and the latter by that of encouragement and coercion. This paper aims to analyze the intricate relations between these antinomies in order to show that submission is the token of power among French Umbanda practitioners.
Spirituality against religion: the role of gender and power