The Intellectualization of the Yorùbá and Afro-Brazilian Religious Universe

The authors soon noticed that more than their peers in academia, the bulk of the readers of their scientific productions came from their own research contexts. This is particularly evident in what concerns African-American religions. The eminently hypertrophic ritual character (Prandi, 2000) of these religions, which constitutes the religious ethos itself (Ferreira Dias, 2013a), overcoming the cosmological dimensions, the aspects linked to collective memory and the normative importance of the processes of learning and transmission of knowledge (Berliner & Sarró, 2007). 

The production of a new religious dynamic, resulting from globalization and with it from the growing transnationalization of religions and New Age movements – a context where religion has a market dimension – leads to a ‘rational choice’ (Stark & Bainbridge, 1985) in the selection among religious offerings, also giving rise to an intense search for religious knowledge that challenges the classical logic of learning. It is not surprising, then, that Sérgio Ferretti (2001), relates the normative importance that his works, and his wife’s holds for the Pernambuco Xangô, or Salamone (2001), reveals to us the case of a yorùbá bàbáláàwó who presents himself as an ‘anthropologist in training’. The classic traffic between the academy and the Bahian terreiros of Candomblé (Seeber-Tegethoff, 2007; Castillo, 2010), not only brought a ritual importance of reading (just seeing the impact of the work of Pierre Verger or Juana Elbein dos Santos), but also a scientificization of religious discourse, accelerated with the departure of devotees to universities (Seeber-Tegethoff, 2007); dos Santos & dos Santos, 2013), after an initial wave of researchers, who moved from the academy to the terreiros.

This process of intellectualization of religious discourse led to Paul Christopher Johnson (2002) to use the term ‘Protestant Candomblé’. In other ‘afro-religious’ scenarios analogous processes can be found. Umbanda, considered ‘the Brazilian religion par excellence’, which perpetuates the myth of ‘the three races’ (Furuya, 1974; Ortiz, 1978), is marked by the permanent intellectualization of its discourse and praxis (Birman, 1978; Brown, 1985; Novaes, 2017). The so-called Afro-Cuban religion, which includes several religious segments, bears the same imprint (Palmié, 2007, 2013), highlighting a transatlantic process of religious intellectualization. In the African context, the emergence of a Yorùbá ethnic and religious identity is not without an intellectual cultural revival (Peel, 2000; Matory, 2005), in which an attempt is made to draw a continuum against Egypt (Lucas, 1948, 1995; Wescott, 1957; Lawal, 1975; Imhotep, 2012) in order to legitimize and superiorize local religious practices.


Cite this article as: João Ferreira Dias, "The Intellectualization of the Yorùbá and Afro-Brazilian Religious Universe," in Adarrum, Fevereiro 27, 2020,

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