Secrets, Gossip, and Gods: The Transformation of Brazilian Candombli'A

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Overview

In this wide-ranging book Paul Christopher Johnson explores the changing, hidden face of the Afro-Brazilian indigenous religion of Candomblé. Despite its importance in Brazilian society, Candomblé has received far less attention than its sister religions Vodou and Santeria. Johnson seeks to fill this void by offering a comprehensive look at the development, beliefs, and practices of Candomblé and exploring its transformation from a secret society of slaves—hidden, persecuted, and marginalized—to a public religion that is very much a part of Brazilian culture. Johnson traces this historical shift and locates the turning point in the creation of Brazilian national identity and a public sphere in the first half of the twentieth century.
His major focus is on the ritual practice of secrecy in Candomblé. Like Vodou and Santeria and the African Yoruba religion from which they are descended, Candomblé features a hierarchic series of initiations, with increasing access to secret knowledge at each level. As Johnson shows, the nature and uses of secrecy evolved with the religion. First, secrecy was essential to a society that had to remain hidden from authorities. Later, when Candomblé became known and actively persecuted, its secrecy became a form of resistance as well as an exotic hidden power desired by elites. Finally, as Candomblé became a public religion and a vital part of Brazilian culture, the debate increasingly turned away from the secrets themselves and toward their possessors. It is speech about secrets, and not the content of those secrets, that is now most important in building status, legitimacy and power in Candomblé.
Offering many first hand accounts of the rites and rituals of contemporary Candomblé, this book provides insight into this influential but little-studied group, while at the same time making a valuable contribution to our understanding of the relationship between religion and society.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A reader interested in learning about Candomblé would be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive yet deftly written introduction to the religion and to the intellectual debates that surround it.... Secrets, Gossip and Gods is an ambitious, rich book that succeeds on many levels; it is a good read, to boot. There is little doubt that it will become a point of reference in the field."—History of Religions

"Highly recommended"— American Journal of Sociology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195150582
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/15/2002
  • Pages: 240
  • Lexile: 1460L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Christopher Johnson is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He has published many articles on Brazil, the Caribbean, and American popular culture, exploring the relation of religion to social identity, memory, and practice.

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Table of Contents

Orthographic Note
Introduction 3
Pt. I Theoretical Boundaries
1 Secret Sits in the Middle 23
2 What Is Candomble? 35
Pt. II Historical Layers of Secrecy
3 Slaves and Secrets 59
4 From Tumor to Trophy: The Nation-State and Candomble 79
Pt. III Secrecy and Ritual Practice
5 Public Space to Secret Place: Initiation and the Logic of Passage 103
6 Signifying the Street in Outbound Rites 131
Pt. IV How Secrets Become Public
7 Public Candomble 151
Conclusion 179
Notes 189
Glossary 201
Bibliography 207
Index 219
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