How Religion, Race, and the Weedy Agency of Plants Shape Amazonian Home Gardens

How Religion, Race, and the Weedy Agency of Plants Shape Amazonian Home Gardens

Abstract

Across Brazilian Amazonia, it is common to find rural households that keep plants with magico-medicinal properties in their home gardens. Despite widespread occurrence of such plants, some Amazonians—especially in Evangelical communities—openly criticize their use as incongruent with Christian belief and practice. In this article, I offer ethnographic observations that indicate divergent attitudes toward magico-medicinal plants between Evangelical Christians and Amazonian folk Catholics, the latter of whom borrow heavily from Afro-Brazilian and indigenous religions. I contend that Evangelicals’ attempts to establish distance from such plants is due in part to histories of ethnic and racial marginalization that are indexed in their use. Still, many magico-medicinal plants are weedy species that actively colonize areas occupied by humans, thus openly defying Evangelical attempts to evade them. In this manner, magico-medicinal plants are not just subject to human agencies, but are arguably agents in their own right.

Kawa, N. C. (2016). How Religion, Race, and the Weedy Agency of Plants Shape Amazonian Home Gardens. Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment, 38(2), 84-93. 10.1111/cuag.12073

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