Accepted paper:

The Atlantic slave trade and the religious productions in the south Atlantic


Emmanuelle Kadya Tall (IRD)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will stress how in the context of slavery, on the African continent and in the African diaspora, religious productions, far from being syncretic movements to manage a free space within an dominant religious scene, were a way to fit in with the theological and political main view of their society.

Paper long abstract:

Comparing the African religious field in Benin and Brazil, during the Atlantic Slave trade, we would like to stress that in both of them, it made strenuous changes in the religious field that one cannot explain in terms of acculturation or syncretism. In Benin, the old Dahomean kingdom strengthened itself by transforming ancestor cults into territory and political cults, making them part of a new cosmology, nowadays recognised as a unified set that was transferred in to the New world. In Brazil, the African cosmology was constructed at the end of the XIX century with the help of Retornados making round trips between the old Slave Coast and Brazil during the illegal slave trade from l830 to 1888. In both cases, these African religious creations were mainly a means to cope within each ones political context. As such, the Dahomean religious universe, resulting from a transformation of ancestor cults and nature deities into a cosmology, helped to consolidate a kingdom strengthened by the slave trade. Meanwhile, Afro-Brazilian cults participated in the building of the nation State at the end of the XIX century and beginning of the XX century, taking part of the racial fraternity ideology raised by the elite to transform a colonial state into a modern one. The detailed analysis of a candomblé ritual during Corpus Christi will show how this ideology can be seen through the various entities presented during its different phases.

panel P161
Cultural productions in the context of slavery: slave narrative, narrative of the self and religious configurations