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Transatlantic Dialogue: Roger Bastide and the African American Religions

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This article considers the role played by Roger Bastide in the development of studies of religions and cultures of African origin in Brazil. Bastide's interpretation of syncretism in religious phenomena has left its imprint on Afro-Brazilian studies. I will analyze two paradigms used by this author in his treatment of the logic of syncretism: the 'principle of compartmentalization' and the opposition between material acculturation and formal acculturation. I will show how, within the Afro-American religious universe, one finds two types of differentially defined syncretism: an Afro-African syncretism, prior to slavery, that lays the foundation for the idea of a basic unity of African culture, and an Afro-western syncretism that one must fight today. The notion of 'ritual panafricanism', which accounts for this 'positive' syncretism between religions with a similar ancestry, revives the Afro-Brazilian vision of 'unity in diversity' that is largely inspired by Bastidian theories.

Affiliations: 1: Directeur de recherches CNRS, Laboratoire d'ethnologie et de sociologie comparative, MAE— Université de Paris X, 11, Allée de l'Université, 92023 Nanterre Cedex, France, Email:


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