Religion, Social Movements, and Progressive Reform in Latin America

As Latin Americans fight for social justice and meaningful citizenship, they pursue active religious and spiritual lives, reshaping old religious practices or embracing new ones.  These two processes intertwine, reinforcing one another or producing tension and conflict. Across the region, popular Catholicism and Evangelicalism have contributed energy, vocabulary and networks to progressive social mobilization and reform. At the same time, the Catholic Church and some Evangelical associations have become key opponents of reform in particular contexts of crisis and change.

Analyzing these processes is key to understanding a post-neoliberal Latin America in which efforts to combat inequality and marginalization increasingly work through cultural identities, discourses, and networks.  Social movements and religion are rarely studied together in the Latin American context, however, with social science and humanities insights in these areas rarely brought into dialogue to address current issues.  Grassroots politics is analyzed largely without attention to religious belief, and religion is studied with minimal attention to the politics of progressive political and economic reform.

“Religion, Social Movements, and Progressive Reform” will bridge this divide by fostering an unprecedented dialogue between multi-disciplinary scholars of Latin American social movements and scholars of religion in the Americas.  Only by breaking down the conceptual and institutional barriers between these fields can we understand the prospects for significant reform and transformative social change in this hemisphere and the personal and spiritual dimensions of political transformation.

From the April 2012 Conference held at CURA:

Click here to listen to a talk with Amanda Horhardt, a master’s student at the State University of Campinas, Brazil (UNICAMP), titled, “Everyday Politics in the Periphery of São Paulo: Catholic Church and Housing Movement Intertwined.” In her talk, Ms. Horhardt shared experiences from her field work that illustrate the dynamics between the housing movement, Evangelicals, and Catholics.

Click here for a recording of one of the talks at that event by an expert on Latin America, Rafael Sánchez from Amsterdam University College titled, “Seized by the Spirit: The Mystical Foundation of Squatting among Pentecostals in Caracas.” In his talk, he discussed his field research with the squatters. He calls their mission, “The most aggressive logic of…spatial occupation I have ever seen.” He said the movement fits into a larger picture of “horizontal recuperation” and a withdrawal from political life in Venezuela.

Religion, Social Movements, and Progressive Reform is funded by The International Consortium on Social Movements at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the Boston University Humanities Foundation, CURA, the Latin American Studies Program, and the Department of Sociology