The Religious Foundations of Capoeira Angola

The Cosmopolitics of an Apparently Non-religious Practice

in Religion and Society
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  • 1 Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí sergio.gonzalez@uaslp.mx
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ABSTRACT

Scholars commonly associate the religiosity of capoeira with the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, although some consider capoeira to be exclusively a martial art or even a sport. From the vantage point of the leaders of capoeira Angola groups, their individual power comes from a set of magical attributes that go beyond the influence of Afro-Brazilian religions. In this article, I explore an alternative form of spirituality that is based on the existence of spiritual beings such as the ancestors and the dead mestres (leaders). I argue that these entities emerge only in capoeira performances, affecting ritual action in such a way as to constitute an alternative form of religion that co-exists with Candomblé. By focusing on the effects that these spirits have in the configuration of charismatic personal power, it is possible to delineate cosmological attributes that make capoeira a potential religious practice in its own right.

Contributor Notes

SERGIO GONZÁLEZ VARELA holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of London. He is a Professor of Anthropology at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, Mexico, and a Fulbright Scholar. His main research interests reside in Afro-Brazilian culture, religion, and ritual. He is the author of Power in Practice: The Pragmatic Anthropology of Afro-Brazilian Capoeira (2017) and a co-editor of Tecnologías en los márgenes (2015). E-mail: sergio.gonzalez@uaslp.mx

Religion and Society

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