The Charismatic Gymnasium

Breath, Media, and Religious Revivalism in Contemporary Brazil

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 10 illustrations Published: February 2021

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Brazil, Religious Studies

In The Charismatic Gymnasium Maria José de Abreu examines how Charismatic Catholicism in contemporary Brazil produces a new form of total power through a concatenation of the breathing body, theology, and electronic mass media. De Abreu documents a vast religious respiratory program of revival popularly branded as “the aerobics of Jesus.” Pneuma—the Greek term for air, breath, and spirit—is central to this aerobic program, whose goal is to labor on the athletic elasticity of spirit. Tracing the rhetoric, gestures, and spaces that together constitute this new theological community, de Abreu exposes the articulating forces among evangelical Christianity, neoliberal logics, and the rise of right-wing politics. By calling attention to how an ethics of pauperism vitally intersects with the neoliberal ethos of flexibility, de Abreu shows how paradoxes do not hinder but expand the Charismatic gymnasium. The result, de Abreu demonstrates, is the production of a fluid form of totalitarianism and Christianity in Brazil and beyond.


The Charismatic Gymnasium is a rare work that refuses to simply stay on the safe page of a modernist critique of representation and instead enters the much weirder world of how things actually work. This brilliant and truly original book makes a major contribution to social, cultural, and political theory.” — Kathleen Stewart, coauthor of The Hundreds

“At every turn of the page, Maria José de Abreu helps us think outside of the box on issues of the rhythmical, spatial, theological, and charismatic-political dimensions of being in common from the point of view of a religious congregation and its presence in Brazilian media. Opening many different and innovative ways to understand the relations among mediation, theology, and politics, The Charismatic Gymnasium is a real jewel to read and to be inspired by.” — Valentina Napolitano, author of Migrant Hearts and the Atlantic Return: Transnationalism and the Roman Catholic Church


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Maria José de Abreu is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: Breathe In. Breathe Out.  ix
Acknowledgments  xiii
Introduction  1
Part I
1. The Media Acts of the Apostles  21
2. Confession, Technically Speaking  51
3. Outstanding Elasticity  80
Part II.
4. The Aerobics of Jesus  109
5. Sanctuary Theotókos: A Conception  128
6. Ghost Chair  156
Epilogue: Theology on the Run  177
Afterword: On Bipolarity  181
Notes  189
Bibliography  211
Index  225
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1134-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0971-9