Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie

Abstract Inga Scharf da Silva

"Trauma as a knowledge archive. Postcolonial memory practice in the sacred globalization exemplified by the contemporary Umbanda"

Umbanda, a newly created afro-euro-indigenous religion in Brazil at the beginning of the twentieth century spreading worldwide since the 1940s and settling through transatlantic sacral globalization in Central Europe since the 2000s, has been little researched in its diasporic spread so far. Through seven years of fieldwork in the spiritual community of the Ilê Axé Oxum Abalô / Terra Sagrada with its motherhouse located in the Swiss mountains in Stein in the canton of Appenzell and seven offshoots in Graz and Vienna in Austria, Zurich, St. Gallen and Bern in Switzerland, Berlin in Germany and Cumuruxatiba in Brazil as a transnational network, I would like to close a research gap.

I question of how foreign knowledge is acquired in a community of predominantly Central European religious actors and integrated into their own everyday world of experience. Is the accusation of a colonization of the interior in the form of consciousness as an extension of the territorial colonization of the colonial era appropriate, or is it an anti-colonial movement that addresses itself through an imagination of belonging in resistance to normative

As a basis, I select a survey of Brazilian imagery of the umbandist material and virtual culture, which at its first glance suggests merely a stereotyping and ascribed solidification of the images of its spirits. At its second glance, as is my thesis, it conveys the portrayal of the taboo internalization of a collective trauma of destruction of indigenous life and belief through the adoration of spiritual entities of Caboclas / Caboclos (indigenous spirits) and the enslavement of African people through the spirits of Pretas Velhas / Pretos Velhos (old black African slaves from Brazil's colonial era) by the tyranny of colonialism.

My interpretative approach is the incorporation in the sense of the Manifesto Antropófago of Oswald de Andrade, which I apply as a cultural theory. This approach seems to me, along with a proper bodily methodology (“eigenleiblich”), to be appropriate for a religious practice centered on the incarnation of spirits in the bodies of personal spirit mediums. I interpret the body as an archive for the transmission of collective traumas, which - so my thesis - contribute to its coping for European religious actors through a decolonization of the mind.