Kingdoms Come: Religion and politics in Brazil
University of Pittsburgh Press, $80 hb
Kingdoms and kingdoms go, but great books last forever. Rowan Ireland’s is a great book. It catches the otherness of a Brazilian religious/political experience tenderly, humbly. It is masterfully academic and lovingly humane at the same time.
The miles are long between Bundoora with its La Trobe University (where Dr Ireland, Australian-born, Harvard-educated, teaches sociology) and Brazil with its ‘Campo Allegre’, a small isolated coastal town in the north-east, where the Ireland family lived for years in ‘participant observation’. ‘Campo Allegro’ is an invented name. The times are dangerous, and Ireland, the inventor of the name, is always sensitive to what hidden costs his intrusions might have. Indeed, as Ireland invented a name for the town, the town’s people invented a name for him. ‘Seu Henrique,’ they called him. ‘Seu Henrique’, the townspeople are confident, will not lessen them by knowing them. Whatever reasons he had for being there, whatever personal use he had for their stories, they had a use for ‘Seu Henrique’. He would tell their stories to someone else. When life is short and hard, there is some immortality in that.