Maria José de Abreu

Maria José de Abreu

Research Interest

Research Sub-interest

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


Brazil, Portugal



De Abreu’s work engages with a range of anthropological, philosophical, and literary debates about religion, temporality, movement, personhood, the human senses and their technological extensions. Her first book, The Charismatic Gymnasium: breath, media and religious revivalism in contemporary Brazil examines how Charismatic Catholicism in contemporary Brazil produces a new form of total power through a concatenation between the breathing body, theology and electronic mass media. De Abreu documents a vast religious respiratory program of revival whose goal is to labor on the athletic elasticity of spirit. Tracing the rhetoric, gestures and spaces that together constitute this new theological community, she exposes the articulating forces between evangelical Christianity, neoliberal logics and the rise of right-wing politics. By calling attention to how an ethics of pauperism vitally intersects with the neoliberal ethos of flexibility, de Abreu shows how paradoxes do not hinder but expand the Charismatic Gymnasium. The result is the production of a fluid form of totalitarianism and Christianity in Brazil and beyond. 

A second project in progress is dedicated to thinking the concept of household-the oikos-in southern Europe's socio-political horizon. Focusing on Portugal during and after the 2008 financial crisis, this project aims to document forms of relation that shape and reconfigure what we could call an oikopolitics of the present. Moving transversally across distinctions such as the private and the public, family and nation, inheritance and meritocracy, the colonial and the postcolonial, the project theorizes ethnographically informed spaces of tension in ways that make decision—though not governance—difficult or impossible. De Abreu’s ethnographic work has been 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, at Humboldt University in Berlin.



University of Amsterdam, PhD in Anthropology, 2009

2021. The Charismatic Gymnasium: Breath, Media and Religious Revivalism in Contemporary Brazil. Durham: Duke University Press.

2020c)The Anti-giraffe in Qui Parle. December Issue

2020a). Staging Acts: Tautology and Theo-political Form in Social Analysis. The International Journal of Anthropology.

2020b) State of Extremes. Political Theology Network.

2019a Above All, Before Anything: No Decision. Immanent Frame.

2019b. “Medium Theory; Or the War of the Words at Regular Intervals.” Current Anthropology 60, no. 5. Pp 650-673.

2018. “May Day Supermarket: Crisis, Impasse, Medium.” Critical Inquiry 44, no. 4: Pp 745–765.

2017. Coauthor with Charles Hirschkind and Carlo Caduff. “New Media, New Publics?” Introduction to supplement, Current Anthropology 58, no. 15: 3–12.

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

2015b. “Worldings: the Aesthetics of Authority Among Catholic Charismatics in Brazil. Journal of Culture and Religion 16, no. 2: 175–192.

2013a “Pessoalidade ou a Terra do Não Lugar da Performance.” In Terra do Não Lugar: Diálogos entre Antropologia e a Performance. Florianópolis: Universidade Federal Santa Catarina.

2013b. “Technological Indeterminacy: Threat, Medium, Temporality.” Anthropological Theory 13, no. 3: 267–284.

2012a. “The Fedex Saints: Patrons of Mobility and Speed in the Neoliberal City.” In Things: Religion and the Question of Materiality. New York: Fordham University Press.

2012b. “TV-St. Claire.” In Deus in Machina: Exploring Religion, Technology and the Things in Between. New York: Fordham University Press.

2011. “Personhood in Frequencies.” Frequencies: A Collaborative Genealogy of Spirituality 

2008. “Goose Bumps All Over: Breath, Media, Tremor.” Special issue, Social Text 26, no. 3: 59–78.

2005. Breathing into the Heart of the Matter. Journal Postscripts: Sacred Texts. 1 (2/3) 277-300

2002. “On Charisma, Mediation and Broken Screens.” Etnofoor xv, no. 1/2: 240–258.

Courses Taught


Selected Publications