Accepted Paper:

"The orixá dwells in the wind": finding home through Candomblé in Berlin and Bahia  


Nina Graeff (Universidade Federal da Paraíba)

Paper Short Abstract:

Multi-sited ethnography of Candomblé revealed a "myriad of ways of dwelling". Members' identification with the orixás transcends a quest for lost bonds with the home country. Regardless of the practice's "place", "learning to be affected" by the orixás turns Candomblé into a transcultural "home".

Paper long abstract:

Orixás, West-African deities, "dwell in the wind": as forces of nature, they are everywhere. The practices of praising orixás mingled during the slave trade in Brazil, shaping religions such as Candomblé in Bahia, in the country's North-East. Spreading worldwide, the religion recently found a new home in Berlin. Extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the single Candomblé house of Germany and in Bahia revealed a "myriad of ways of dwelling": Brazilians and foreigners in and from different cultural contexts identify and build bonds with the deities, turning the religion into a transcultural (Welsch 1991) "home", in which common experiences interweave. Such identification, thus, transcends a presumed quest for bonds with the home country lost in migration. Members may practice Candomblé either "by pain", for having a troubled relationship with their own body, for loneliness, for feeling accepted; or "by love" for the orixás. But how does one "learn to be affected" (Latour 2004) by the orixá? If to dwell is, as this conference proposes, "to make sense of the world with the body, the head and the heart", Candomblé very exercises dwelling: by intensively engaging the whole body in its communal practice, one develops a more resonant (Rosa 2016) relation to the world and to oneself. Such wisdom is transmitted and carried on regardless of the practice's original and immediate "place", since "the orixá is the air one breathes".

Panel Reli02
Dwelling and creating within and across religious traditions (SIEF Ethnology of Religion Working Group Panel)