Arquivo de etiquetas: Religious Anthropology

African Theology: thinking outside the box


Considerations on African Theology sounds like a non-stop carrousel: moving on a same direction and returning to the starting point at the same time. In Portuguese we call it “a little hake with tail in mouth” situation. While some scholars focus their lens on the historical changes concerning the discourses or even to the rise of the so-called African Theology, nobody waste a moment thinking in the concept of Theology, itself.

The African Theology, at least as a given long-term concept, is understood as a Christian painting with African colours, materials and techniques. In another terms: African Theology refers to a flux of African typical ideas, languages, metaphors and even rites to the Christian God and to Jesus. In my point of view this should be said to be African Christian Theology. Despite the several Christian movements Islam is part of the communal furniture in Africa. Thereby assume that African Theology only refers to Christian movements and churches do not improve African Studies.

Moreover, recognizing that Theology should be related to patterns of thought and manners of practice and live the religion local ancient cults must not be excluded from African Theology framework, as I pointed in my MSc thesis on Yorùbá Religion (2011).

Cite this article as: João Ferreira Dias, "African Theology: thinking outside the box," in Adarrum , Outubro 28, 2013,

Matory’s Contribution

J. Lorand Matory’s Black Atlantic Religion is definitely a must-read book for all scholars and students of Afro-American religions and cultures. Matory’s deep experience in Òyó-Yorùbá religious practices and patterns represents a crucial vessel for its Brazilian counterpart the Bahia Candomblé. Along with Peel’s Religious Encounter and the Making of Yoruba, Black Atlantic Religion enclose an ‘other side’ perspective from long-term Brazilian models on African Diaspora and mostly on Candomblé’s traditions and background patterns. The Lagosian Renaissance, the men in a city of women and the counterpart of Òyó ritual processes, are some of the central aspects that allows me to put this book on the top of my shelf. Matory’s historical perspective enriches the Anthropology in a new way. There is no longer acceptable that an anthropologist pays no attention to historical processes on religious patterns, rites or discourses.

Believe and Belong in Candomblé

© Luciano Osorio

In the afro-Brazilian context, the ideas of believe and belong are particularly connected. Like the houses of Candomblé historically tends to be places of production and reproduction of social value, i.e., places where the notion of community is deeply present, to be a believer means to be a member. Durkheim’s classic idea of religion as a social product and producer is still valid in the present context.
Such idea is well expressed through sentences like “I belong to Candomblé”. In other words, the act of believes is a post-product of the act of belongs. While somebody is part of a Candomblé community, i.e., a house (called “Terreiro”), it means that person is a believer in Candomblé.
Nevertheless, in the African and afro-Brazilian framework the act of belong is more important than the act of believe, like the idea of believe is different than knowing, a more correct concept in the present cultural background.

Aprender Religião / On Learning Religion

Berliner, David, Sarró, Ramon (Eds.). (2007). Learning Religion: Anthropological Approaches. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books.

David Berliner e Ramon Sarró, em “On Learning Religion: an Introduction”, capítulo primeiro da obra Learning Religion: Anthropological Approachescontribuem decisivamente para a conceptualização da transmissão dos conteúdos religiosos. Veiculados, necessariamente, por agentes religiosos (em particular sacerdotes), os conteúdos religiosos — dogmas, valores éticos e estéticos, ritos, mitos, entre outros — não chegam aos atores religiosos, os devotos/simpatizantes/praticantes (potenciais ou em maior ou menor grau também eles agentes) sem o filtro da interpretação e o cunho conceptual do difusor. Por outras palavras, os conteúdos religiosos e a forma como a religião é vivida não está independente dos processos de transmissão e apreensão, i.e., a religião é transmitida em função da forma como é aprendida e apreendida, e esta é aprendida e apreendida de diferentes formas por diferentes atores religiosos. | ler o capítulo.

Apparently a simple issue, it was badly addressed in great part of anthropological studies concerning religious communities and their sharing of religious matters. With “On Learning Religion: an Introduction”, chapter one of the book Learning Religion: Anthropological Approache, David Berliner and Ramon Sarró offers us an important framework concerning religious attitudes. Mainly, they advise us that the religious contents (such as ideas and attitudes) are not free from the process of transmission and learning, which is a path guided by religious agents (mostly the priests). Those actors, i.e. all the believers and worshipers of any religion, learned and share the religion in a certain way. The agency of sharing/teaching is a very powerful process, while it produces certain religious attitudes and beliefs, which could be apart from the basically structure of the religion itself.  | read the chapter.