Fluid Spirits: Cosmology and Change in Contemporary Brazilian Umbanda

by Diana Espírito Santo


Umbanda is an urban 20th-century phenomenon, often described in the literature as Brazil’s first “national”—or truly “Brazilian”— religion. Early on, Umbanda was thought to bridge elitist forms of European-derived spirit mediumship and racially stigmatized Afro-Brazilian traditions. Through analysis of narratives of spirit possession and mediumship, we discover how Umbandists experience a creative dialogue between cultural norms and a cosmos that often transcends them. In Umbanda it is through the body, its senses, and its experience that the spirits become present. The fascinating life stories and narratives of a variety of practitioners are the heart of this book of the experiences that are Umbanda.

Fluid Spirits is an essential book on the Brazilian spirit-incorporation religion of Umbanda. By emphasizing the agency of Umbandists, Espírito Santo explores a path between studies that read Umbanda as a reflection of Brazilian culture and society and those of Umbandists’ own worldviews. Her dense ethnographic material illustrates a recent manifestation of Umbanda’s striking variability: groups in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are rethinking mediums’ relations to Umbanda’s spirits and the nature of the spirits themselves. —Steven Engler Professor, Religious Studies Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada

Diana Espírito Santo completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the London School of Economics, and her Ph.D in 2009 at University College London. She conducted fieldwork on Umbanda in Brazil as a postdoctoral research fellow. She has published extensively and has co-edited volumes on the anthropology of religion. Diana is an assistant professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, in Santiago.

304 pp., softcover, 6 in X 9 in. 

Cat. #: CSP8051
ISBN #: 9781626328051


SKU: CSP8051  Categories: ,

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