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Religion, memory, and society: an ethnographic approach to sorcery and the formation of a local clergy in Angola

Grant number: 15/02021-0
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): September 01, 2015
Effective date (End): August 31, 2018
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Anthropology - Theory of Anthropology
Principal Investigator:Melvina Afra Mendes de Araújo
Grantee:Madalina Elena Florescu
Home Institution: Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento (CEBRAP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


The subject of this research is the relation between the discourse on sorcery and the formation of a local elite in the Catholic missions in Angola. This subject will be analysed through a case study of the formation of a local clergy at the minor seminary that the missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost established in 1927 in the city of Malange. Among their first seminarians there were the sons of their catechists, as well as children whom the missionaries in their reports describe as "abandoned", a practice that both missionaries and the colonial administrators explained in terms of "beliefs in fetishes", as "fetishism" or "sorcery". The hypothesis underpinning this project is that these terms belong to a repertoire of inter-cultural mediation in Angola that allows us to trace the historicity of the contemporary society back to the period of Atlantic trade and the contemporary society and situate the missionary encounter within a perspective of the long duration. Taking ground in a theoretical framework that articulates the theory of cultural mediation elaborated by Paula Montero with the phenomenology of the social world of Alfred Schütz, the project intends to realize an in-depth study of the historical trajectory of an Angolan clergy in the perspective of the long history of the space of inter-cultural mediation between missionaries, colonial administrators, and local society. The focus is on the way in which the catholic priesthood has been defined as a "code of mediation" through the lens of a sociology of motivation. This means to take into consideration not only the ways in which the various actors rationalised their motives by providing explanations for their actions, but also the deeper motives that were our could not necessarily be rationalised or accessible to actors' conscious reflection, and that may not have been intelligible to an outside observer either. (AU)