From their beginnings, Candomblé terreiros in general and Bantu-based religion in particular have functioned as sources of social and political mobilization for Afro-Brazilians. While in the past the religion was mainly directed inward toward the community—for example, promoting dignity and carrying out processes of healing—nowadays Bantu culture and religion has also been directed outward, toward achieving social and political ends. ACBANTU’s (Cultural Association for the Preservation of Bantu Heritage) discourse explicitly connects recognition with redistribution, demanding that municipal, state, and federal governments acknowledge the presence of Bantu-based groups in Brazil and include them in the allocation of resources. There has been an increasing interdependence between the struggle for recognition—the need to repair cultural prejudice—and redistribution—the need to repair socioeconomic injustice (Fraser 1997).
The fight for recognition takes place mainly in the realm of communication between different groups within a given society, thus requiring the production and circulation of new cultural representations that will allow for the reinterpretation of the image of the subjugated group. Redistribution is sought mainly by demanding the establishment of new public policies that can be legitimatized only if new representations of the oppressed groups successfully challenge previously hegemonic notions. Therefore, recognition and redistribution are not two separate spheres but are intrinsically connected realms. In their struggles for social justice, grassroots organizations seek both components at once. The interconnection between recognition and redistribution is presented in a discourse in which tradition does not oppose modernity, as is made clear in the statement of Ana Maria Placidino, educator and co-founder of ACBANTU: “We have a whole heritage to protect. We’re traditional communities … that carry out traditional activities in the ways we collect food, fish, and cook, for instance. … But we also want to have access to public policies.”
- “Nurturing Bantu Africanness in Bahia,“ in Comparative Perspectives on Afro-Latin America by Kwame Dixon and John Burdick (2012)