Stairway to Aruanda: Creating an Accessible Spiritual World in the Religion of Umbanda
AuthorFrias, Erin Elizabeth
AdvisorForline, Louis C
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This thesis is a study about how the Brazilian religion of Umbanda creates an accessible spiritual world based on inclusion. Past research on the phenomena of spirit possession/incorporation has led to a solid grouping of theories which have been argued to a state of stagnation. These theoretical studies have proven how possession is an expression of resistance to inequality, racism, poverty, cultural change, and the product of mental illness and identity formation. While one cannot deny that these theories have had profound influence on how spirit possession has been, and continues to be, viewed in various cultures, they neglect a truly interpretive approach that asks the question: "How does spirit possession/incorporation create an accessible and tangible spiritual world?" In his research with the Urapmin of Papua New Guinea, Anthropologist Joel Robbins observed the importance of proximity and distance to heaven within a Pentecostal community. I have also found evidence to support that the distance between the spiritual world and the material world is very important when considering the history of exclusion in the Afro-Brazilian religious market. In this thesis, I will examine how the religion of Umbanda creates a more accessible world and allows them to participate in a larger universe.