Accepted Paper:

Trance-national Gods: Reinventing the Social and Ecological Space of Brazilian candomblé in Northern Italy  


Giovanna Capponi (University of Roehampton)

Paper short abstract:

I carried out my research in a "candomblé house" situated in Arborio, in Northen Italy. This paper will explore the ways in which the "sacred space" of the Afro-Brazilian religious system adapted to a new social and geographical environment, confronting the anxiety of a second diaspora.

Paper long abstract:

Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian religious system based on the cult of the orixás, deities whose origins can be traced back to the West-African kingdoms. Candomblé rituals involve sacrifices, spirit possessions and manipulation of sacred energy. The Axè Ilé Alaketú Ayrá is a terreiro (candomblé house) that was founded in Arborio in 2000. It is attended by both Brazilian immigrants who practiced the cult in their country, and Italian novices who decided to "convert" and who were initiated in the religion. On these premises, the sacred space has been reinvented in order to fit into the social expectations and rules of a European settlement.

During the fieldwork, I analysed the ways in which the place adapted itself to a different ecological environment, the difficulties in finding the right ingredients in order to perform the rituals and coping with the atmospheric and architectural changes. Nevertheless, I found the challenge for the terreiro is to fit into a social landscape where "otherness" generates fear and anxiety amongst the people of the surrounding villages, but also amongst the novices' families and friends. I spent part of the research examining how the social actors rebuilt their identities according to their original social and religious backgrounds. The experience of the initiation, the trance and the offerings are perceived differently by Brazilian and Italian practitioners. The sacred space shows its power through the projection of a new transnational identity, that is embodied both in the migrants' reminescences and in the novices' cultural memory.

Panel W016
Space, place and religious rituals in the context of migration (EN, FR)