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Dr Roger Sansi-Roca BA, MA, PhD

Position held:
Senior Lecturer

+44 (0)20 7078 5397

r.sansi-roca (

Contact information:
Department of Anthropology
Goldsmiths, University of London
New Cross
SE14 6NW

Office hours:
Wednesday: 11:00am - 1:00pm

After studying Anthropology, History and Art at the Universities of Barcelona and Paris, I took a PhD in Socio/Cultural Anthropology at the University of Chicago. My dissertation, supervised by Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, James Fernandez and Marshall Sahlins, was an investigation on the formation of modern Afro-Brazilian art and culture. I spent about 3 years doing fieldwork in Bahia. My dissertation led me to work more in-depth in two topics: one, the material culture, cosmology and notions of the person of Afro-Brazilian Candomble, and two, the history of sorcery and fetishism in the Lusophone Atlantic. I developed this second theme as a Research Associate at Kings College, within the project “Cultures of the Lusophone Black Atlantic”. Since I joined Goldsmiths I have been focusing my research and teaching interests in contemporary art. Currently I am working on art, politics and objectification in Barcelona, Spain.

Areas of supervision

Roger is interested in supervising students on wide range if topics. His current supervisory projects include Calon gypsies in Brazil, historical memory in Extramadura, contemporary art in Athens, and ethnographic objects between production and iconoclasm.

Current MPhil/PhD students supervised:

  • Zahira Araguete, From the Archive to the Grave: Recovering Historical Memory in Contemporary Extremadura
  • Martin FottaCalon in the Market: Subversion of economic activities and their role in reproduction of Calon Gypsies in Recôncavo area of Bahia, Brazil


Research interests

I have done research in three main areas:

-Afro-Brazilian religion, art, and cultural policy in Bahia.

-The notion of the fetish and sorcery in the Black Atlantic

-Contemporary art and the politics of cultural production in Barcelona.

I studied Anthropology in Barcelona, Paris, and Chicago. I am interested in contemporary art, sorcery, the fetish, work, projects, cultural policy, nature, history, possession, personhood, science, chance, events, monuments, the gift, money, the body, the gods…I have supervised projects on contemporary art, museums, tattooing, and money.

Selected publications

"The hidden life of stones: historicity, materiality and the value of Candomblé objects in Bahia”,  pp. 139-156.  Journal of Material Culture, 2005 volume 10 (2)
In the last century, the objects of Candomblé, a religion of African origin in Bahia, suffered radical transformations in their public value. After discussing in general terms the life of ‘saint’ stones (otã) in Candomblé, this article then focuses on the traces of the life history of one of these otã. This stone was seized in a police raid in a Candomblé house, and then displayed in a museum, until a legal action recently undertaken by political activists obliged the museum to withdraw the stone from exhibition. In the conclusion, I propose to recognize notions of historicity and materiality as keys to understanding the life and ‘agency’ of this and other objects

Making Do:Agency and objective chance in the psychogenetic portraits of Jaume Xifra.  Quaderns de l’ ICA. 2005
In this article, I explore three central questions in the Anthropology of Art: agency, relational esthetics, and objective chance, through the work of a contemporary artist, Jaume Xifra. These three questions are strictly related, and they are at the foundation of an active dialogue between anthropologists and contemporary artists. Since Mauss and the surrealists to Alfred Gell and relational art, anthropology and modern art have shared a critical approach to the ontological separation of things and people established by modern discourse. Discussing practices of magic and gift exchange, anthropologists and artists have always been interested in understanding how people can become things and things, people.

“Dinheiro Vivo: Money and religion in Brazil”, Critique of Anthropology. 27 (3) 2007  
For decades, social scientists have seen money and religion in Brazil as two incompatible terms. In contrast, this article shows how money has always been present in Brazilian popular religion. This argument leads to a second point: a criticism of the interpretation of Brazilian Neo-Pentecostal churches as `money fetishists', religions of neoliberalism and globalization. Neo-Pentecostals in Brazil appropriate money not just for economic ends, but also with the political project of Christianizing the country. More generally, the article introduces a different perspective both from the classical discourse on money as an agent of globalization and modernity on the one hand, and a more recent literature on the personalization of money and alternative currencies, on the other. In both the discourses on modernity and personalization, nation-states are increasingly marginal. But the nation is still very much at the centre of the Brazilian Neo-Pentecostal project.

Nancy Naro, Roger Sansi & David H. Treece (eds.) Cultures of the Lusophone Black Atlantic  272 pages . Palgrave-Macmillan, New York. October 2007.
This book addresses the Lusophone Black Atlantic as a space of historical and cultural production between Portugal, Brazil, and Africa. The authors demonstrate how this space is not just the result of the imposition of a Portuguese imperial project, but that it has been shaped by diverse colonial cultures. The Lusophone context offers a unique perspective on the history of the Atlantic.

Fetishes and Monuments: Afro-Brazilian art and culture in the 20th Century, 167 pages, Berghahn books. November 2007.
 One hundred years ago in Brazil the rituals of Candomblé were feared as sorcery and persecuted as crime. Its cult objects were fearsome fetishes. Nowadays, they are Afro-Brazilian cultural works of art, objects of museum display and public monuments. Focusing on the particular histories of objects, images, spaces and persons who embodied it, this book portrays the historical journey from weapons of sorcery looted by the police, to hidden living stones, to public works of art attacked by religious fanatics that see them as images of the Devil, former sorcerers who have become artists, writers, and philosophers. Addressing this history as a journey of objectification and appropriation, the author offers a fresh, unconventional, and illuminating look at questions of syncretism, hybridity and cultural resistance in Brazil and in the Black Atlantic in general.

Marcel Mauss and the Gift in Contemporary Art in Revue du MAUSS 2010/2 (n° 36) 
Mauss is a key reference to artistic practice in the second half of the 20th century, when contemporary art started to redefine its practice from the production of objects to the mediation of situations of social encounter. Although it may be argued that some readings of Mauss were superficial, my objective tin this paper will be less to criticize them than to assess how his work has opened a field of new possibilities in art theory and practice. 

Sorcery in the Black Atlantic, University of Chicago press 2011, Edited with L. Nicolau.
Most scholarship on sorcery and witchcraft has narrowly focused on specific times and places, particularly early modern Europe and twentieth-century Africa. And much of that research interprets sorcery as merely a remnant of premodern traditions. Boldly challenging these views, Sorcery in the Black Atlantic takes a longer historical and broader geographical perspective, showing the intimate connections between discourses on sorcery and Atlantic colonial cultures.


Content last modified: 13 Jan 2015

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