Religion and Rebellion in Latin America

REL746
Spring 2017
M 1:30pm - 3:20pm
MDIV Requirements: 
Diversity
Professor: 
Permission Not Required
No Limit to Enrollment
Course Description: 
The 2013 election of Pope Francis and the pontiff’s subsequent emphasis on the Catholic Church’s preferential option for the poor has brought the “rebellious” history of liberation theology into the global spotlight. The media frequently portrays liberation theology as a simple fusion of religious beliefs and political ideologies, particularly Marxist ideologies, and observers often assume that the movement represented an abrupt break with the region’s conservative religious past. However, Latin America has a long and complex history of religious “rebellion” or “resistance” (terms whose very meaning will be interrogated in this seminar), especially amongst marginalized members of Latin American society, such as indigenous persons, Afro-Latin Americans, women, and the poor. 
 
In the more than 500 years since Christopher Columbus first arrived in Caribbean waters, indigenous religious leaders spearheaded rebellions against colonial authorities, Muslim African slaves coordinated revolts against their masters, a Brazilian “holy man” convinced the impoverished inhabitants of rural Brazil to confront the armed forces of an entire nation, and Mexican Catholics shouted ¬¡Viva Cristo Rey! as they rose up against what they believed to be an oppressive and godless regime. 
 
The history of religious rebellion in Latin America is as diverse as it is extensive. Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Candomblé, Vodou, and indigenous religions all played parts in rebellions that could be progressive, conservative, nationalist, or separatist in nature. This seminar will draw upon this diverse religious history in order to examine and discuss a number of questions, including: How do we identify and define religious resistance? When and why do we declare a religious rebellion to be successful? How has the notion of a Latin American utopia changed over time, and how has this affected the nature of religious rebellion? Has the growth of religious pluralism in Latin America intensified or diluted efforts of religious resistance?
 
Background Expected: 

None

Course Requirements: 

Readings (~200 pp. per week), two presentations, and one final research paper (15-20 pp.)

Basis of Evaluation: 

Participation: 40%; Presentations (15%); Final Paper (45%).