Nagô Grandma and White Papa

Candomblé and the Creation of Afro-Brazilian Identity

By Beatriz Góis Dantas

Translated by Stephen Berg

208 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 2 figs., 4 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5975-9
    Published: September 2009
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9848-2
    Published: September 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8089-5
    Published: September 2009

Latin America in Translation

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit
Nagô Grandma and White Papa is a signal work in Brazilian anthropology and African diaspora studies originally published in Brazil in 1988. This edition makes Beatriz Gois Dantas's historioethnographic study available to an English-speaking audience for the first time.

Dantas compares the formation of Yoruba (Nagô) religious traditions and ethnic identities in the Brazilian states of Sergipe and Bahia, revealing how they diverged from each other due to their different social and political contexts and needs. By tracking how markers of supposedly "pure" ethnic identity and religious practice differed radically from one place to another, Dantas shows the social construction of identity within a network of class-related demands and alliances. She demonstrates how the shape and meaning of "purity" have been affected by prolonged and complex social and cultural mixing, compromise, and struggle over time. Ethnic identity, as well as social identity in general, is formed in the crucible of political relations between social groups that purposefully mobilize and manipulate cultural markers to define their respective boundaries--a process, Dantas argues, that must be applied to understanding the experience of African-descended people in Brazil.

About the Author

Beatriz Góis Dantas is professor emerita of anthropology at Universidade Federal de Sergipe in Brazil. She is author or coauthor of three other books.
For more information about Beatriz Góis Dantas, visit the Author Page.


"Remarkably relevant. . . . This intricate study is intended for those who already have an understanding of the perils of affixing labels on Brazilian identity."--Choice

"A recognized classic in the literature on African Brazilian religions, Nagô Grandma and White Papa is an important case study of social identity formation as a relational process involving the 'political' mobilization of cultural markers to define group differences. Dantas's book remains surprisingly relevant to current theoretical debates on these questions as well as to the area of African diaspora studies."--Robert Slenes, Universidad Estadual de Campinas, Brazil

"Dantas brings together the practices of everyday believers, religious authorities, intellectuals, and elites to explore what Africa means in Brazil and how that meaning has changed over time. The depth, care, and sophistication of her research and analysis have made this book a model for a generation of scholarship in Brazil. Translation into English brings this imaginative work the broad audience it fully deserves."--Mark Healey, University of California, Berkeley