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Edison Carneiro was born and lived in Brazil's northeastern state of Bahia. Unlike many mestiços (people of indigenous and European descent) from his generation who denied their African origins, Carneiro dedicated his studies to the customs and traditions of the descendants of Africans in Brazil, particularly regarding religious ritual. This was pioneering work at the time, when African religions were still repressed by the Brazilian government. Carneiro is considered to be the first person to systematically record the practices, beliefs, and history of the Afro-Brazilian people. Among the rituals developed by Afro-Brazilians, Carneiro identified the Nagô rituals as the only authentic variant of the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, as opposed to the Bantu rituals. In his search for the pure African religion, he considered the Bantu sect to be a degenerated form of African religion.

Carneiro combined his studies with a strong political activism He participated in the ...