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Brown University

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Program Name

Brazil: Culture, Development, and Social Justice

Abstract

There has not been a great amount of research that has been conducted on Santo Daime. As such, my research will make a significant contribution to the body of knowledge available to those who are curious about the church, its practices, and their social implications. There is much stigma, prejudice, and even persecution of Santo Daime. Hopefully a more intimate look at the social ramifications of work with Santo Daime will ease these preconceptions.

Santo Daime is the only completely Brazilian religion: a unique syncretism of indigenous Amazonian traditions, Portuguese Catholicism, African spiritualism, and Kardecist Spiritism, whose convergence reflects Brazil’s unique history. By contributing to the written history of Santo Daime, I will be documenting a unique example of how Brazil’s complex history and multiplicity manifests today.

Furthermore, this research takes a deep look at an emerging moment in history, in which ancient and once isolated spiritual practices that are at the root of the indigenous Amazonian/shamanic worldview are spreading across the globe to urban centers in the middle of modernity. In studying the shift that Santo Daime activated in one community, the reader may speculate about the radical implications of its emergence and expansion. This research and the researcher’s experience is a part of this expansion, and her historical context as a young, American, university-educated woman is one example of the modern convergence of these radically different cultures.

This research, by documenting a growing spiritual work, whose roots remain in the Amazonian/shamanic worldview, and its social implications, adds to the richness and pluralism of modern academia that collectively poses a new paradigm that challenges dominant notions of progress and development, which continue to perpetuate systems of human oppression and environmental destruction. Although this case study may be small, I hope that it provides insight into one revolutionary instance of social justice work.

Lastly, as interest in the use of entheogens continues to grow in the Western world, it is essential that dialogue be open between Westerners and the communities that have already established their safe and effective use. This research will open another doorway for dialogue and might further our understanding of if and how entheogens might be used effectively and safely in the future, by what means, and to what ends.

Disciplines

Religion | Sociology

 

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