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Maria Jose de Abreu

Research interest

Image and sound cultures Morals and ethics Signs, people and things The political

Research partial interest

Religion and Political Theory, Media and Technology, Materiality, Governance, Personhood


Brazil, Portugal


My work deals with a number of anthropological, philosophical and literary debates about religion, temporality, movement, personality, the human senses and their technological extensions.

My book, The Charismatic High School: Breath, Media, and Religious Awakening in Brazil Today (Duke University Press, 2021) examines how charismatic Catholicism in Brazil today is spawning a new form of total power through a concatenation of the breathing body, theology, and electronic mass media. The book documents an extensive religious awakening program, the aim of which is to work on the athletic elasticity of the spirit. I trace the rhetoric, gestures and spaces that together make up this new theological community and reveal the articulating forces between evangelical Christianity, neoliberal logic and the rise of right-wing politics. By drawing attention to how an ethic of pauperism vitally overlaps with the neoliberal flexibility ethos, the book shows how paradoxes do not hinder the charismatic high school, but expand it. The result is the production of a flowing form of totalitarianism and Christianity in Brazil and beyond.

A second ongoing project is devoted to thinking of the budget concept - the oikos - in the socio-political horizon of southern Europe. This project focuses on Portugal during and after the financial crisis of 2008 and aims to document forms of relationships that shape and reconfigure what is known as the eco-politics of the present. I move across distinctions such as private and public, family and nation, inheritance and meritocracy, colonial and post-colonial issues and theorize ethnographically informed areas of tension in a way that makes decisions - even if not governance - difficult or impossible.

A parallel project is dedicated to reflecting on the articulation between the history of women and coloniality during the authoritarian Estado Novo in Portugal. I am interested in how the problematic development of the country as colonizability in the 1970s created the possibility for a certain type of fictitious writing. Working closely with The New Portuguese Letters (1971), the project uses its literary universes as a window into the history of the colonial occupation and domestication of the Cape Verde Islands with their specific geotopographical features and as a key location for the Atlantic slave trade.

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De Abreu's ethnographic work was supported by Fundação para Ciência e a Tecnologia, Lisbon, University of Amsterdam, Forum for Transregional Studies, Berlin, ICI-Berlin, and Rework: Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History, Humboldt University Berlin.


University of Amsterdam, PhD in Anthropology, 2009

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2021. The Charismatic High School: Breath, Media and Religious Awakening in Contemporary Brazil . Durham: Duke University Press.

2021The anti-giraffe in Qui Parle. Vol. 30 (1). June edition.

2021 Rabble Rousers without exception. Cultural Anthropology Hotspots: American Fascism.

2021 About Twisted Logics and the Pandemic. Material religion network.

2020a). Staging of files: tautology and theopolitical form in social analysis. The International journal of anthropology . Band 64(4): 42-59.

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2020b) State of extremes. Political Theology Network.

2019a Above all, above all: No decision. Immanent framework.

2019b. Media theory; Or the war of words on a regular basis. Current anthropology 60, Nr. 5. S. 650-673.

2018. May Day supermarket: crisis, dead end, means. Critical request 44, Nr. 4: S. 745–765.

2017. Co-author with Charles Hirschkind and Carlo Caduff. New media, new publics? Introduction to supplement, Current anthropology 58, No. 15: 3–12.

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2015a). 'Still Passing: Crisis, Youth and the Political Economy of Fog in Limbo.' Sonderausgabe, Scapegoat: Landscape, Architecture, Political Economy 8: 60–70.

2015b. Worldings: the aesthetic of authority among Catholic charismatics in Brazil. Journal of Culture and Religion 16, no. 2: 175-192.

2013 The personality or the country of the non-performance. in the Land of Nowhere: Dialogues between Anthropology and Performance . Florianópolis: Bundesuniversität Santa Catarina.

2013b. Technological indeterminacy: threat, medium, temporality. Anthropological theory 13 (3 :) 267–284.

2012a. The Fedex saints: Promoters of mobility and speed in the neoliberal city. in the Things: religion and the question of materiality . New York: Fordham University Press.

2012b. TV-St. Claire. Im Deus in Machina: Exploring religion, technology, and the things in between . New York: Fordham University Press.

2011. Personality in frequencies. Frequencies: A Collaborative Genealogy of Spirituality

2008. Goosebumps everywhere: breath, media, tremors. Special edition, Social text 26, no. 3: 59-78.

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2005. Breathe into the heart of matter. Journal Postscripts: Sacred Texts. 1 (2/3) 277-300

2002. About Charisma, Mediation and Broken Screens. Ethnophor xv, no. 1/2: 240-258.

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