A politics of respect

Reconfiguring democracy in Afro-Brazilian religious activism in Salvador, Brazil

by ELINA I. HARTIKAINEN

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Alternative politics of democracy shape and are shaped by dominant forms of democracy in circular fashion. In 2009 practitioners of Brazil's many Afro-Brazilian religions gathered in Salvador to develop a religiously grounded mode of democratic politics. Mobilizing a religious formulation of respect, participants in the gathering subsumed government ideals of democratic practice under Afro-Brazilian religious norms of hierarchy and the social order that they presupposed. These efforts were predicated on an artful combining and adapting of democratic and religious discourses and interactional practices. The Afro-Brazilian religious politics of democracy that was articulated by this political project did not only reflect religious valorizations of hierarchy but it also established a new foundation for democratic politics in Brazil.

Far right, Mãe Beata de Iemanjá speaking at the First National March for Life and Religious Liberty, an activist gathering of practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions organized in Salvador, Brazil, November 21, 2009.
Far right, Mãe Beata de Iemanjá speaking at the First National March for Life and Religious Liberty, an activist gathering of practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions organized in Salvador, Brazil, November 21, 2009. (Elina I. Hartikainen)