Kelly E. Hayes is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Indianapolis. She earned a Ph.D. in the History of Religions at the University of Chicago and has been conducting field research on religion in Brazil since 1997. The author of Holy Harlots: Femininity, Sexuality, and Black Magic in Brazil (University of California Press, 2011) and numerous scholarly articles, Hayes has received fellowships from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is a two-time Fulbright Scholar. Slaves of the Saints, her documentary film about Afro-Brazilian religions, produced with Catherine Crouch and distributed as a companion to Holy Harlots, premiered at the Rio International film festival and went on to screen at festivals worldwide.
Hayes’s most recent research project focuses on the new Brazilian religion called Valley of the Dawn. Known for its imaginative synthesis of elements drawn from Christianity, Spiritualism, Hinduism, and Afro-Brazilian religions, as well as various esoteric traditions, the Valley of the Dawn has become an international religious movement with nearly a million members worldwide. Valley members believe that they are members of a unique “tribe,” known as Jaguars, whose spiritual ancestors derive from a race of extraterrestrials originally sent to Earth over 30,000 years ago with a mission from God m God to advance humanity’s cultural and spiritual evolution. Hayes’s article on the religion, “Intergalactic Space-Time Travelers: Envisioning Globalization in Brazil’s Valley of the Dawn,” (Nova Religio, May 2013) received the 2013 Thomas Robbins Award for Excellence in the Study of New Religions.