The Sacrificial Self: From the Theological to the Political in Northeast Brazil
This project explores the increasing salience of local understandings of self-sacrifice as models for political action in Northeast Brazil. Approaching sacrifice as the object of competing theological discourses and as a theory of personhood and concomitant relations of kinship, I explore its emergence as a key idiom in local discourses about the nature of power. Utilizing both ethnographic and historical methods, I aim to understand why this particular model of sacrifice plays such a pivotal role in contexts as seemingly diverse as religious practice, kinship, and popular political movements such as Liberation Theology and the Landless People’s Movement. Drawing on recent debates in the anthropology of Christianity, of kinship, and of popular political action, this project aims to extend the theoretical analysis of sacrifice beyond the strictly ‘religious’ in order to understand how and why it serves as a dominant model for the conceptualization of power relations in Northeast Brazil.
The project is part of a three-year postdoctoral fellowship funded by the British Academy and starting in September 2009.