Envisioning a Modern Utopia: Rationality and its Other in Brasília and the Valley of the Dawn By Kelly E. Hayes from Indiana University (USA)

Envisioning a Modern Utopia: Rationality and its Other in Brasília and the Valley of the Dawn


One of the largest alternative religions in Brazil is the Valley of the Dawn (Vale do Amanhecer). It was founded in the 1960s by a charismatic medium known as Aunt Neiva (Neiva Chaves Zelaya, 1925-1985), and today claims affiliated temples throughout Brazil, the United States, and Europe. Its doctrine blends elements of diverse origins with an esoteric metaphysics that emphasizes the hidden connections behind the world of appearances, promising adherents a path to spiritual evolution. The movement is best known for its colorful temples, elaborate healing rituals, and the spectacular vestments worn by initiates, which together materialize the group’s esoteric cosmology.
My presentation examines the sociohistorical origins of the Valley of the Dawn and its material culture, comparing the Valley’s vision of a utopian world with that embodied by Brasília. Constructed in the late 1950s, the new capital of Brasília was meant to both symbolize and galvanize the country’s future, ushering in a modern era governed by rationality and the ideals of order and progress emblazoned on the national flag. Reading Brasília and the Valley of the Dawn against one another is instructive. Both reflect the singular zeitgeist of mid-twentieth century Brazil, a heady blend of space-age confidence and progressive optimism. Both were built by candangos, migrant workers who had left their places of origin to participate in the realization of an inspired vision. Both envision a utopian future free of the entanglements of the past. One difference is that the Valley of the Dawn has succeeded in ways that Brasília has not.

Please join us online or in person for this special lecture and book launch event on Tuesday, May 21, 6.15 pm CET.

The Zoom link for the recurring event stays the same: https://fau.zoom.us/j/63672581746

Share this post:

Our latest Blog Posts