Re-enchanting Late Modernity
The Role of Nature in Brazilian Umbanda
Keywords:Umbanda, late modernity, Afro-Brazilian religion, middle class, nature, rituals, healing, indigenous
The natural world holds a place of great reverence in Umbanda, an Afro-Brazilian religion. Whether experienced by adherents as plant-based healing or festive celebrations held in the midst of the crashing seashore, the inclusion of the natural world in spiritual practice is visible in diverse aspects of Umbanda, and is signi?cant in the context of late modern life in urban Brazil. Following an ethnographic methodology, I explore two middle-class Umbanda terreiros (centres) located in Botafogo, in Rio de Janeiro and in Cotia, Sao Paulo, in order to illuminate how nature is constructed, perceived, and integrated into Umbanda practice and ritual. I argue that Umbanda provides an appealing means of re-enchanting late modernity in Brazil through interaction with nature and the privileging of embodied practices and rituals, and that this is particularly attractive to the middle and upper socioeconomic classes, in part by rehabilitating their perceptions of the natural environment.
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