On Sex Work and Spiritualism (Brazilian Studies Association Conference) (2018)


This paper will examine the role of religion in the everyday life of women involved in sexual commerce in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Treated popularly as amoral or morally ambivalent, we consider the extent to which the women involved in sexual commerce harness Afro-Brazilian religious imaginaries in defense of love, sexuality and femininity. Occasionally celebrated as a mechanism through which marginalized women defy the patriarchal criteria of feminine respectability and provoke scandal, Afro-Brazilian religion can also reinforce the notion of illicit or improper social categories, subjectivities, and desires. Through the collection and analysis of ethnographic data (i.e., interviews, participant observation), we reflect on the injection of Umbanda and Candomblé in the everyday life of women historically marginalized in development processes (such as those accelerated in the pursuit of modernity) and the complexities inherent to the resourcing of Afro-Brazilian religion as defense.

Citation: De Lisio, A. & Bahia, J. (July 2018). “On Sex Work and Spiritualism” to be presented at the Brazilian Studies Association Conference (BRASA) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.