Accepted paper:

Spiritual utopia or a link with Catholicism? Afro-Brazilian religions in Portugal


Clara Saraiva (FLUL, University of Lisbon)

Paper short abstract:

Afro-Brazilian religions in Portugal seek to become institutionalized religious groups and to conquer a place in society similar to the one Catholicism enjoys. This paper will explore the tensions that result from such situation.

Paper long abstract:

The afro-Brazilian religions (Umbanda and Candomblé) have expanded immensely in Portugal in the last twenty years. Although Brazilians constitute the major group of immigrants in the country, it is the Portuguese that are attracted to these cults. The Brazilians present are individuals with special ritual duties, such as the pai or mãe de santo, the heads of the temples. The Portuguese feel that going to the terreiro on Saturday and the Catholic mass on Sunday is not a problem and the discourse of the religious leaders stress the same ideas, especially in the case of Umbanda. There are also many individuals who frequent terreiros without a strong religious affiliation to them. They come because they are attracted to new forms of spirituality not directly connected to a denominational religion, searching for solutions for their problems, even more so in a time of economic and social crisis in Portugal. On the other hand, Afro-Brazilian religious groups all seek an institutional position, constitute themselves and NGOs and fight for their right to become legitimate denominational religions in the country. Drawing on ethnographic material, this paper will explore such tensions, and will reflect on the connections between institutionalized Catholicism and these newly imported religious traditions.

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