2010/ 2012

Amanda Dias

A Comparative Approach to Islamism and Pentecostalism in Rio de Janeiro / A Brazilian in Nigeria / Islamic Presence in Brazil and Rio de Janeiro

Amanda S. A. Dias holds a PhD in Sociology, done at both universities the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in France and the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) in Brazil. Her doctoral research consisted of a comparative study between the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and the Brazilian Favelas. Her work intends to contribute to the development of an approach that is based on ethnographic research and benefits at the same time from a comparative perspective. She is author of the volume Aux marges de la ville et de l’Etat. Camps palestiniens au Liban et favelas cariocas (Beyrouth/ Paris, 2013) and published several articles in French and Portuguese.

A Comparative Approach to Islamism and Pentecostalism in Rio de Janeiro

As we are observing the rise of Evangelism in Muslim regions (i.e. North Africa) we are also witnessing the advent of Islamism in Christian countries (for example in South America). Our project proposes to approach a new phenomenon: the emergence of Islam as another option in the Brazilian religious field. Islam has long been 'a religion of immigrants' here, but in the last few years, we have witnessed an increase in the number of conversions among Brazilians who have no Muslim ancestors.
Although the Muslim population remains a minority - especially when compared to Pentecostals - the spectacular increase in the number of conversions to Islam since 2001 calls for attention. Slowly but surely coming to rise in the cities, Islam offers its believers a new religious identity. In a dialectical process, the specific shape it assumes is very reminiscent of Pentecostalism. In fact, in Brazil, Islam has parallels and asymmetries with both Salafi movements and Pentecostalism. This implies the possibility of an individual spiritual practice, but also the formation of a community that is both local and global. What we seem to observe here is not so much the emergence of a new kind of Islam as the emergence of a new type of believer.

In our research, we will focus on Rio de Janeiro, where 80% of the Muslim community is comprised of non-Arab Brazilians who have converted to Islam. We will also investigate the relation between Islamism and Pentecostalism in Brazil, notably by further exploring the topic of conversion. We have chosen to diversify the field strategies employed to carry out this study, opting for multi-sited ethnography and an approach that includes participant observation, informal and semi-directive interviews, and photography.

A Brazilian in Nigeria

When the partizipants of global prayers were invited to write about their journey to Lagos, I was immediately worried about it: how could I deliver a scientific analysis of a city that, before then, was a total unknown to me? Fortunately, this was not the objective. Here, I propose to put aside the pursuit of academic knowledge, to focus on a more intimate narrative of Lagos, one that is made up of my personal impressions of the place.

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Islamic Presence in Brazil and Rio de Janeiro

According to historical-sociological literature, Islam first arrived in Brazil in the 18th century, when slaves from Islamized regions of Western Africa were brought to the country. During the 19th century, as syncretism with Catholicism as well as other African religions occurred, those first Islamic communities started to decline, and disappeared completely by the middle of the 20th century.

At the same time that Islam of African origin vanished, a new Muslim presence arrived in Brazil, through diverse migration waves from the Middle East. Although mainly composed by Christians, they led to the creation of Muslim communities in the country. The Islamic presence increased in the 1970s, with the arrival of Muslims who had left their countries due to the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and the continuous occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Although the majority of Muslims in Brazil are Arab migrants and their descendants, in the last decades a growing number of non-Arab Brazilians who converted to Islam have contributed to the formation of an Islamic community in the country.

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