- Visualizing the sacred: video technology "televisual" style, and the religious imagination in Bahian candomblé
- American Ethnologist
- Volume | Issue number
- 33 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Candombl´e is an Afro-Brazilian spirit-possession cult, whose splendid performance of "African tradition" and "secrecy" has long prohibited the reproduction of religious activity by modern media technology. Authoritative voices within candombl´e have explicitly stated that modern media technology is incongruous with authentic traditional religion,
claiming that the body in ritual action is (and should remain) the only medium through which an understanding of the sacred can be reached.
Nonetheless, more and more cult adepts seek to portray their religious life through video technology, challenging priestly as well as anthropological discourses on the cult. A discussion of some of the very first video productions made by and for the candombl´e community reveals that community members are modern media consumers, taught by TV
what is aesthetically desirable and stylistically correct and keen to upgrade the importance of a religious event by "making it look like TV." My analysis reveals just how much TV has become an authenticating and authorizing agent in the religious field: Endowed with the power to make spirit worship part of the contemporary media society that is Brazil (rather than locate that worship in an imagined "Africa") and allowing the significance of embodied "deep knowledge" to be articulated in a style that is universally understood and appreciated by media consumers, TV is nothing less than constitutive of the very values people attribute to their religious experiences.
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