Beating the Drums of Santa Teresa

Performing Resistance in a Brazilian Quilombo


  • Katerina Hatzikidi Graduate Institute


This article explores the evocative power of sonic and performative aspects of a set of actions taken by Catholic quilombolas (inhabitants of quilombos) in north-west Maranhão, Brazil, in the context of the religious celebration of their community’s patron-saint Santa Teresa de Jesus. Its aim is to explore the principal ways in which the itinerant drummers employ sound, movement and performance to respond to the unsettled conditions of everyday life. In line with this volume’s orienting questions, this article sheds light on some of the main evocations that emerge from engaging with sound in the context of a quilombo religious festivity and the impacts these may have upon people’s lives in ‘conflict circumstances’. The discussion focuses on the outings of the itinerant group (batuque) for the collection of donations (joia), and on the ways in which these ritualistic acts, which are heuristically called ‘performative religious praxis’, visibly and acoustically manifest Catholicism in a religiously contested territory. It is argued that in the joia outings Catholic resistance to the growing influence of local Pentecostal churches and quilombola resilience to land competitors are channelled through the batuque's musical performance. In those instances, it is posited that in the joia outings, the space considered as the Saint’s land is moulded, acted upon, reconfigured, and constituted by the batuque for the entire Catholic community.

Author Biography

Katerina Hatzikidi, Graduate Institute

Katerina Hatzikidi holds the Swiss Government Excellence Fellowship for postdoctoral research at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. Her research focuses on Afro-Brazilian (quilombola) grassroots political organisation around land. She is also an Associate Fellow at the Institute of Latin American Studies, University London, formerly Stipendary Fellow (2018-2019), and Postdoctoral Research Affiliate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, (D.Phil., Oxford University, 2018).