Collective Identity and Racial Thought in São Paulo’s Black Gospel Music Scene


  • John Samuel Burdick Syracuse University


Brazil, music, blacks, Protestantism, religion, collective action, racial politics, cultural politics, musical politics


In an effort to push the literature on music and collective identity to examine how the cognitive dimension of collective identity gets constructed, this paper shifts away from the customary focus on lyrics, toward an analysis of the everyday discursive contexts of music scenes, such as rehearsals, informal commentary and training seminars. By examining such contexts within the black gospel music scene in São Paulo, Brazil, the paper discovers that a complex ideology of racial identity, infused with ideas drawn from North American history and the Bible, circulates within the scene. This ideology contributes, in turn, to the formation of a strong racial identity among black gospel artists. Evidence for the strength of both the ideology and identity include the relatively weaker sense of black identity among gospel rappers; and the translation of black gospel artists’ racial identity in collective action and mobilization. This is politically significant given the otherwise low level of racial consciousness or mobilization among Brazil’s Protestants.

Author Biography

John Samuel Burdick, Syracuse University

Professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University