The article discusses the dispersion of candomblé imagery, practices and aesthetics in the public sphere of Salvador, Bahia. It shows that the spirit possession cult has become a trademark for the Bahian state and a major ‘symbol bank’ for groups as varied as the Bahian gay movement, environmental pressure groups and black activists. As candomblé enters ever new circuits of Bahia's representational economy, and finds itself dressed in ever new ideological garments, the classic anthropological construction of candomblé as a ‘religion’ and an ‘African universe in Brazil’ no longer manages to capture the wild variety of Gestalten in which candomblé makes its public appearance. The case of candomblé therefore challenges the boundedness of our anthropological categories of thought.
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