Edison Carneiro, a Brazilian intellectual, was born in the city of Salvador, the capital of the State of Bahia. He dedicated himself to a very wide range of genres and themes, among which are his ethnographic and historical studies concerning African-derived religiosity and cultural practices in Brazil, as well as his works on folklore and popular culture. As a communist intellectual and combative journalist, in the 1930s, he carried out fieldwork in the candomblé terreiros (cult houses) of Salvador, the ’African Rome’, and became one of its main interpreters and specialists.

In 1937, Carneiro organized the Second Afro-Brazilian Congress in Salvador and helped create the Union of Afro-Brazilian Sects, an ephemeral but pioneering entity in an effort to plead for full freedom of worship for the African-derived religions in the country. In Rio de Janeiro, where he established himself definitively in 1939, he continued to work as a journalist and scholar of black history and culture in Brazil without, however, ever obtaining a university post. From the 1950s on, Edison Carneiro dedicated himself almost entirely to the so-called ’Brazilian folkloric movement’, engaging in the National Folklore Defense Campaign, of which he was the director from 1961 until 1964 when he was compulsorily removed by the military junta that took power through a coup d’état.

Some of his most important works were: Religiões Negras (1936), Negros Bantos (1937), Quilombo dos Palmares (1947), Candomblés da Bahia (1947), Antologia do Negro Brasileiro (1950), Ladinos e Crioulos (1964) and Dinâmica do Folclore (1965). Throughout his sixty years of life and nearly forty-year career, Edison Carneiro built a life and work which was resolutely involved in the development of the studies on culture and folklore associated with the African cultural legacy in Brazilian society.

Excerpt from ROSSI, G. (2020). A “Lost Vocation”? The Life and Work of Edison Carneiro, Exponent of Afro‑Brazilian Studies, in Bérose - Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l'anthropologie, Paris. Online

Further reading:

BISILLIAT, M. and R. SOARES. (2005). Edison Carneiro Folklore Museum. São Paulo: Empresa das Artes.

CARNEIRO, E. (1940). The Structure of African Cults in Bahia. The Journal of American Folklore 53 (210): 271–78. Online

MAGGIE, Y. (2015). No underskirts in Africa: Edison Carneiro and the ‘lineages’ of Afro-Brazilian religious anthropology, Sociologia & antropologia, vol. 5, n. 1. Online

Main publications:

1931. Lixópolis. O Momento. Salvador, 15 de setembro.

1931. Onde Judas perdeu as botas, O Momento, Salvador, 15 de outubro.

1934. As raças oprimidas no Brasil, A Bahia. Salvador, 12 e 13 de outubro.

1935. A situação do negro no Brasil. In: FREYRE, Gilberto (org.). Estudos Afro-Brasileiro: trabalhos apresentados ao 1° Congresso Afro-Brasileiro do Recife. Recife: FUNDAJ/Ed. Massangana.

1935. Exploração do negro. A Manhã. Rio de Janeiro, 14 de novembro.

1940. The Structure of African Cults in Bahia, The Journal of American Folklore, v. 53, n. 210, 271-278. Online

1940. O negro no Brasil, Trabalhos apresentados ao 2° Congresso Afro-brasileiro (Bahia). Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira.

1947. Quilombo dos Palmares. São Paulo: Martins Fontes.

1948. Candomblés da Bahia. Salvador: Publicações do Museu do Estado/Bahia. PDF

1950/1967/2005. Antologia do negro brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: Agir. PDF

1951. Arthur Ramos: Brazilian Anthropologist (1903-1949), Phylon (1940-1956), v. 12, n. 1. Online

1953/2019. Ladinos e Crioulos. São Paulo: Martins Fontes. PDF

1958. O Quilombo dos Palmares. São Paulo, Companhia Editora Nacional. PDF

1965. Dinâmica do Folclore. São Paulo, Martins Fontes.

1968. O negro como objeto de ciência, Afro-Ásia, n. 6-7. Online

1975. Capoeira. Rio de Janeiro: Funarte. PDF

1980. A lei do ventre-livre. Afro-Ásia, n. 13. Online

1991. Religiões negras/Negros bantos. Rio de Janeiro, Civilização Brasileira. PDF