Perceiving parallax : human agency in the changing nature, history, and influence of the Brazilian Baptist hymnal Cantor Cristão.


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This dissertation is a cultural history and musical ethnography of the first Brazilian Baptist hymnal Cantor Cristão. Published in 1891, it was revised and expanded, and went through thirty-seven editions but remained the only official Baptist hymnal for one hundred years. Though a second Brazilian Baptist hymnal (Hinário para o Culto Cristão) was published in 1991, Cantor Cristão still maintains an important place within Brazilian Baptist congregations today. I trace the trajectory of this book, paying particular attention to the people connected to its history, including authors, composers, translators, publishers, editors, and the impact of this very stable repertoire on Brazilian Baptist life. This dissertation uses a mixed-methods approach, combining historical research, oral history, and ethnography. I include a description and analysis of the contents of what is possibly the earliest extant edition of the hymnal (1893), and highlight the role and significance of the missionary enterprise in Brazilian Baptist life, including complex interconnections of key individuals—British, Portuguese, Brazilian, and American— who played crucial roles in the development of the hymnal. I also present results from my ethnographic study of a prominent present-day Baptist church in Recife, Brazil, to show Cantor Cristão’s continued importance. In highlighting the process of musical localization whereby these hymns became a valued Brazilian tradition, this dissertation advances a more nuanced view of the legacy of the mission enterprise that takes seriously the role of local agency.



Brazilian Baptist hymnody. Mission hymnody. Musical localization. Musical ethnography.