chapter  7
24 Pages

Between Affliction and Politics: A Case Study of Bahian Candomblé

Anthropologists have long emphasized the ethnic aspects of Candomble, analyzing it as an African or Afro-Brazilian religion, or focusing on specific ethnic traditions within it. More recently, several revisionist works have approached Candomble as simply a religious recourse-one of many in a generic spiritual marketplace-arguing that Candomble leaders use ethnic­ ity and concepts of ethnic purity to attract followers. The case of Vila Flaviana, a Salvador Candomble terreiro (house) that reopened in the early 1990s after having been effectively closed since 1940, however, reveals that Candomble culture is more complex than either of these approaches sug­ gests.1 Vila Flaviana’s reopening under the guidance of Valnizia P.O., its young mae-de-santo (priestess) and the great-granddaughter of the terreiro's founder, reveals the complex set of networks and dynamic ten­ sions that pervade modem Candomble. At least three elements comprise this complexity and, at the same time,

pose problems for the analysis of Candomble. On one level, the conversion of the faithful and the training of their leaders can be studied as individual responses to affliction; they can be viewed from the perspective of social and, particularly, familial networks. On another level, an examination of Vila Flaviana’s history reveals the gradual development of a political net­ work within the house based on the family and spiritual relationships that its

Reprinted with permission from Revista de Antropologia (Sao Paulo) 39, no. 2 (1996): 219-53. Revised by the author. Translated by Hendrik Kraay.