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The Ethnic Life of Missionaries: Early Inculturation Theology in Mato Grosso, Brazil (1952-1990)

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From the early 1950s to the mid-1970s, missionaries from several congregations in the southwestern Amazon region of Brazil, notably a group of young Jesuits, developed an avant la lettre radical brand of inculturation theology, based on close relations with academic anthropology and cultural relativism. By the 1990s, this “type” of inculturation became one of the missionary norms in the region; it was also instrumental in the creation and orientation of the Indigenist Missionary Council, the main missionary organization in Brazil. I explore the trajectories of three inculturation theology Jesuits who asserted the need to protect indigenous cultures, including their shamanic rituals. Résumé A partir des années 1950 et jusqu’aux années 1970, des missionnaires de diverses congrégations dans le sud-ouest amazonien, notamment un groupe de jeunes Jésuites, développèrent une forme radicale et précoce de la théologie de l’inculturation, dans un rapport étroit à l’anthropologie universitaire et s’appuyant sur le relativisme culturel. Dans les années 1990, cette forme d’inculturation deviendra normative dans cette région ; c’est aussi elle qui fondera le Conseil Indigéniste Missionnaire, la principale organisation catholique en milieu indien au Brésil, et lui donnera son orientation politique. J’explore plus particulièrement les trajectoires de trois Jésuites qui professèrent la nécessité de préserver les cultures indiennes, notamment de leurs rituels chamaniques.

Affiliations: 1: Latin American and Iberian Studies Department University of Massachusetts Boston, USA


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