Priests and Stars

Candomble, Celebrity Discourses, and the Authentication of Religious Authority in Bahia's Public Sphere

Authors

  • Mattijs van de Port University of Amsterdam

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/post.v1i2_3.301

Keywords:

Bahia, Candomble, ritual, media and religion

Abstract

This article discusses the inextricable entanglement of religious and media imaginar¬ies by pointing out how, in a thoroughly mediatized society such as Bahia (Brazil), the public articulation of religious authority comes to depend more and more on celebrity discourses. Candomblé, the Afro-Brazilian spirit possession cult on which this article focuses, is an intriguing example of this trend. The cult has become the main “symbol bank” of the Bahian state, and groups have increasingly sought access to its rich arse¬nal of images, sounds, myths, and aesthetics. Disconcerted by this development, Candomblé priests have sought to publicly assert themselves as the only authentic representatives of the cult. Whereas within the temples, their religious authority is ?rmly rooted in the performance of ritual practice and constantly recon?rmed in the rigid and minute prescriptions as to how the different ranks in the temple hierarchy should interact, the public sphere requires the mobilization of other resources to back up claims of religious authority. The author argues that Candomblé priests are very successful in “colonizing” the tremendous appeal of celebrity discourses. Exploiting the society-wide interest in Candomblé, they create media events that allow them to dis¬play their contacts and af?nities with the stars. They thus ?nd their religious leader¬¬ship authorized in terms that are well understood by the consumers of modern mass media.

Author Biography

Mattijs van de Port, University of Amsterdam

Mattijs van de Port is assistant professor in cultural anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. He is author of Gypsies, Wars and Other Instances of the Wild (Amsterdam University Press, 1998), an ethnography of a war-torn town in Serbia, Geliquideerd (Meulenhoff, 2001), a study on contract killings in the Netherlands. Currently he is writing a book on the dispersion of Candomble imagery in Bahia, on which he has widely published in anthropological journals. Oudezjids Achterburwal 185 1012 DK, Amsterdam

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Published

2005-12-03

How to Cite

van de Port, M. (2005). Priests and Stars: Candomble, Celebrity Discourses, and the Authentication of Religious Authority in Bahia’s Public Sphere. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 1(2-3), 301–324. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.v1i2_3.301

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Section

Articles