Working on the premiss that the classical sociological dichotomy between “religion” and “sect” does not possess the same historical density or the same descriptive value in ali contexts, the author investigates the activities of a French association created to combat “sects “, centering her analysis on accusations against a particular umbanda temple located in Paris. The accusations, aimed at both the temple’s therapeutic and religious pretensions, are couched in a perception which seeks to translate diversified experiences into unified principles of universal value. In its defense, the representatives of the temple underline their systematic and institutionalized policy of incorporating the different “ethnic” universes of its population as an adequate way of living with cultural differences within a same nation. The comparison of the two discourses underlines a strong contrast between the multicultural project typical of the Americas and the French perspective which sees the homogeneization of differences as being in the nation’s best interests.
Afro-Brazilian cults; France; religion; sects