The Valley of Lamentation

João Biehl, Susan Dod Brown Professor, Department of Anthropology, Princeton University, and Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Summer Scholar, SAR

Colloquium, SAR Boardroom

Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 12:00–1:00 pm, Free

João BiehlJoão Biehl2014 Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Summer Scholar. Photograph courtesy of João Biehl.João Biehl2014 Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Summer Scholar. Photograph courtesy of João Biehl.

This presentation explores the Mucker War, a religious and fratricidal conflict that shattered the German settlements of southern Brazil in the nineteenth century. Based on archival research in Brazil and in Germany, Biehl shows that a transplanted Germanist bourgeoisie used science, media, and institutionalized religion to stigmatize and eventually eradicate a charismatic religious movement popular among fellow immigrants. The purging of the Mucker (a designation for very religious and hypocritical people) by the national army was part and parcel of a modern experiment of governance, Biehl argues, and the particulars of this war can help elucidate how, historically, transcendental values were banished from political life in Western frontier zones. Interviews with local historians and with elderly people who recollect the war’s aftermath illuminate the story of the Muckers as an enduring secular myth to be reckoned with.

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