In this article we chart the histories and political translations of atheist cultures in Angola. We explore the specific translations of atheist ideologies into practical actions that occurred in the post-independence period in the 1970s–1980s and perform an ethnographic exploration of their legacies in contemporary Angola. We also debate the problem of atheism as an anthropological concept, examining the interfaces between ideology, political agency, and social praxis. We suggest that atheism is inherently a politically biased concept, a product of the local histories and intellectual traditions that shape it.
Ruy Llera Blanes and Abel Paxe
Ruy Llera Blanes
In this article, through a set of ethnographic vignettes from fieldwork conducted in Angola since 2015, I discuss the political semantics of crisis and austerity, and simultaneously outline an itinerary of a “traveling austerity” between Portugal and Angola, exposing the interconnectedness and mutual binding of both political and economic contexts. Invoking stories of migrant workers in Luanda and the work of local “financial activists” protesting against financial inequality in Angola, I question the relevance of national-based approaches to austerity politics, explore conceptualizations of austerity beyond its “original,” mainstream Eurocentric setting, and argue towards the necessity of analyzing transnational intersections in the study of austerity.
Mimeses, Alterities, and Colonial Hierarchies
This article analyzes one kind of colonial equipment designed in the early twentieth century for the purpose of providing medical assistance to the indigenous populations of Angola and Mozambique. I will refer to it as a ‘hut-hospital’, although it had several forms and designations. The layout of hut-hospitals consisted of a main building and a number of hut-like units that were supposedly more attractive to the indigenous population and therefore more efficient than the large, rectangular buildings of the main colonial hospitals. Using different sources, including three-dimensional plaster models of hut-hospitals, photographs, legal documents, and 1920s conference papers and articles, I will investigate the relatively obscure history of this colonial artifact while exploring the use of imitation as part of the repertoire of colonial governance.
The Cosmopolitics of an Apparently Non-religious Practice
Sergio González Varela
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.
Power and Deception in Afro-Brazilian Capoeira
Sergio González Varela
This article is about the meaning of mandinga in Afro-Brazilian capoeira as it is practiced in the city of Salvador, Brazil. Capoeira is an art form that combines elements of ritual, play, and fight. My main argument focuses on the mandinga as an indigenous form of power that shapes social relations, bodily interaction, magic acts, and the definition of a person. The concept of mandinga offers an understanding of the deceptive logic of capoeira and contributes to the development of an ethnographic theory of power. The emphasis here is on the importance of mandinga as a strategy for fighting and as a principle for social interaction with strong ontological implications. It is considered a cosmological force that affects the foundations of subjective reality and the perception of the world.