This article explores the ways in which Pentecostal media, especially electro-acoustic media, are integrated in the everyday life of a favela in Rio de Janeiro. It argues that the popularity of Pentecostal radio has to be understood in relation to the sociocultural meaning of sound, the architecture of the favela, and the ways in which sound is employed to mark off space and express identity and alterity. Pentecostal broadcasts acquire their meaning against the background of sound that evangelicals define as “worldly” instead of Godly, and the cacophony of sounds in the dense urban space reflects the power struggles that are going on and the position that evangelicals try to maintain. People are inclined to listen to evangelical radio because it signals their “sanctified” position in the harsh and complex social conditions of the favela. By way of a discussion of the qualities of sound in relation to the built environment--its appearance as an extension of material and social boundaries and its manifestation as an immediate presence that defies boundaries--this article also explores some of the more intricate transformations that the use of electro-acoustic technology brings about in the nexus of religion, technology, and bodily dispositions. By many evangelicals, electro-acoustic technology is considered an important means to be “in touch” with God. This emotionally charged experience subjectively confirms the status aparte of the persons who adhere to the Pentecostal churches and, as such, authenticates the social distinctions they make between themselves and the other favela inhabitants.
Research Article|September 01 2008