People of Faith

Slavery and African Catholics in Eighteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro

People of Faith

Latin America in Translation/En Traducción/Em Tradução

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Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 12 illustrations, 21 tables Published: October 2011

African Studies, Latin American Studies > Brazil, Religious Studies

In People of Faith, Mariza de Carvalho Soares reconstructs the everyday lives of Mina slaves transported in the eighteenth century to Rio de Janeiro from the western coast of Africa, particularly from modern-day Benin. She describes a Catholic lay brotherhood formed by the enslaved Mina congregants of a Rio church, and she situates the brotherhood in a panoramic setting encompassing the historical development of the Atlantic slave trade in West Africa and the ethnic composition of Mina slaves in eighteenth-century Rio. Although Africans from the Mina Coast constituted no more than ten percent of the slave population of Rio, they were a strong presence in urban life at the time. Soares analyzes the role that Catholicism, and particularly lay brotherhoods, played in Africans’ construction of identities under slavery in colonial Brazil. As in the rest of the Portuguese empire, black lay brotherhoods in Rio engaged in expressions of imperial pomp through elaborate festivals, processions, and funerals; the election of kings and queens; and the organization of royal courts. Drawing mainly on ecclesiastical documents, Soares reveals the value of church records for historical research.


“[A]n important contribution to the scholarship on the Luso-Brazilian slave trade and slavery in Brazil.” — Ana Lucia Araujo, Slavery & Abolition

“Soares’ exceedingly skilful exegesis of sources provides a vivid picture of the Mahi nation. With People of Faith she wrote an enjoyably readable and greatly instructive book, now also accessible to a non-Portuguese reading audience. As such, it will join the classic works by Stuart Schwartz, A. J. R. Russel-Wood, and Mary Karash on Brazilian urban social life, lay brotherhoods, slavery, and freed black people.” — Jorun Poettering, Iberoamericana

“The Portuguese version, entitled Devotos da Cor, was a popular success in Brazil and the English edition merits a prominent place in both the literature of Afro-Latin American religious history and the ongoing study of the subtle and changeable meanings of ethnicity in Africa and the Americas.” — Nicole van Germeten, Hispanic American Historical Review

“[T]his work will certainly serve as a new foundational text…. In addition, the analysis of identity and the terminology used to describe it will be of interest to scholars of subaltern groups both within and outside the field of African diaspora studies. Although the analysis is complex, the translation is excellent, serving to make the text accessible to scholars, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates.” — Elizabeth W. Kiddy, The Americas

“This book... provides considerable insight into the social organization and customs of slaves in the colonial city.” — Elizabeth Kuznesof, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“People of Faith tells a complex story of the ways in which African peoples in the diaspora developed social bonds and organized collective associations that cultivated and promoted a common cultural and social identity… [I]t offers a useful new framework through which students and scholars in the field of African diaspora can understand cultural development and identity formation.” — Mariana L. R. Dantas, American Historical Review

"An important addition to Atlantic World and African diaspora history in English, People of Faith explores identity formation, social organisation and cultural expression among African converts to Catholicism in eighteenth-century Brazil." — Barbara A. Sommer, Journal of Latin American Studies

"The recent publication of People of Faith gives English readers a chance to explore Soares’s impressive scholarship by way of a generally well-translated version with the added bonus of a characteristically thought-provoking postscript.... English readers now have the chance to delve into some of the very best that Brazilian historiography has to offer." — Douglas Cole Libby, Ethnohistory

“Among the many fine works on Atlantic slavery and the African diaspora published by Brazilian historians in recent years, People of Faith stands out as a particularly innovative and important study of great interest to an English-speaking audience. One of the qualities that distinguishes it from related studies is the way that Mariza de Carvalho Soares carefully works her way through the sparse documentary evidence, allowing the reader to follow her interpretive method and to understand how she arrives at particular conclusions.” — Barbara Weinstein, author of For Social Peace in Brazil

“The questions of cultural continuities and African identities in Brazil have become central to the understanding of slavery and of Afro-Brazilian life. This book, centered on one group of the so-called Mina nation in Rio de Janeiro, presents one of the best-documented, most perceptive discussions of these issues in the context of the Catholic society of Brazil. Here we can see clearly that cultures and identities were often layered and complex and adapted to local realities. This book is required reading for anyone interested in the African diaspora and questions of cultural continuities and creations.” — Stuart B. Schwartz, Yale University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Mariza de Carvalho Soares is Associate Professor of History at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Tables ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

Part One

1. From Ethiopia to Guinea 19

2. Commerce with the Mina Coast 40

3. African "Nations" and Provenience Groups Gallery of Illustrations 67

Gallery of Illustrations 101

Part Two

4. Urban Life and Brotherhoods in the City 113

5. Constructing a Religious Norm 146

6. Conflict and Ethnic Identity among Mahi 183

Postscript 223

Appendix 241

Notes 249

Bibliography 293

Index 309
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Co-Winner, 2012 Roberto Reis Book Award, presented by BRASA

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5040-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5023-1
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