Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Guillermo Grenier

First Advisor's Committee Title

committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Jean Muteba Rahier

Second Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Dennis Wiedman

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Albert Wuaku

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


Santo Daime, religious rituals, commodification of modern culture, globalization, Miami, Amazonian rainforest, New Age spiritualities, ayahuasca

Date of Defense



This dissertation is an exploration of the Santo Daime Church in Miami, focusing on the challenges of balancing institutional stability with continual growth and innovation. Santo Daime—whose central ritual entails the consumption of the mind-altering ayahuasca brew—is a new religious movement that amalgamates indigenous Amazonian, Afro-Brazilian, and popular Catholic traditions. Between June 2016 and December 2018, I employed participant observation, semi-structured interviews, exegesis of sacred songs, and document analysis to investigate the meanings and lived experiences of church leaders and adherents as they relate to their religious identity and agency. Specifically, this study asks three research questions: What global processes facilitated the expansion of Santo Daime in Miami? What changes have occurred at the organizational level of the Miami-based churches? Lastly, how have these impacted the identities of this church and its followers in the city of Miami? To answer these questions, a theoretical framework utilizing postmodernism and bricolage was used to anchor and unify the factors influencing the global expansion of Santo Daime and its receptivity in Miami. In terms of identity, postmodernity involves the deconstruction and reconstruction of the self as fluid, fragmented, and eclectic. These characteristics of the new postmodern self permit an equally eclectic pick and choose attitude of spiritual traditions. I use bricolage as a theoretical tool to describe the bundle of diverse religions promoted under the Santo Daime canopy as well as the postmodern willingness to combine symbols from disparate codes, even at the cost of disjunction and eclecticism. Using Weber’s theory on authority and leadership, I analyze how intra-church and inter-church power struggles among two Miami-based Santo Daime churches tested their capacity to resolve the conflicts between and among the leadership and devotees as well as consolidate their position in Miami and globally. This study suggests that the Americanization of Santo Daime found in one of its Miami churches undermines Church orthodoxy and hierarchies both in Miami and Brazil, Santo Daime’s birthplace. The dissertation concludes that the Santo Daime churches reproduce the same divisions, inequalities, and discrimination found in the Miami social environment, yet maintained their healing efficacy among practitioners.





Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).