Marcus Avelar
Department of Linguistics

I received my Ph.D from the Department of Linguistics. I specialize in sociocultural linguistics and my dissertation, entitled Urban Spirits: Language, Race, and Modernity among Umbandistas in São Paulo, Brazil, investigates Umbanda, a Brazilian spiritualist religion widely discussed in Cultural Anthropology for its syncretism of African, Indigenous, and European religions.

In my dissertation, I use linguistic and anthropological methods to interrogate how practitioners of Umbanda position their religion as 'modern' by appealing to the nationalist ideal of 'democracia racial', i.e., a set of discourses asserting that Africans, Europeans, and Indigenous peoples have come together and given equally valuable contributions to the formation of the Brazilian people. My main contribution to the field of sociocultural linguistics lies in this contextualized discussion of the intersectionality between discourses of modernity and racial formations in Brazil.

Previous topics of research, all of which combined diverse methodologies, include how “sexual diversity” is constructed on gay websites, the interplay between code-switching and national/local identities, the role of touching in conversation, and processes of racialization in service calls.