Religion and Society in Latin America

History 103E.002

Spring 2009
Instructor (text): 
Day & Time: 
Fri 12-2
Brianna Leavitt-Alcantara is a graduate student in the History department here at UC Berkeley. Her research is on gender and religion in colonial and nineteenth-century Central America.

Religion has been a defining factor in Latin American history, from the micro-level of individual daily experience to the macro-level processes of conquest, colonialism, and nation-formation. This seminar approaches this rich and complex topic by focusing on three issues: religion, culture contact, and conquest; popular religiosity; and religionâ€_Äôs impact on social and political processes. Historians continue to wrestle with these themes in the study of religion and we will consider some of these big questions. What did religious conversion amount to? Domination and acculturation? Isolation and resistance? Syncretism and mutual appropriation? Did religion represent a battlefield dividing Spanish and indigenous worldviews or did it help create a â€_Äúcontact-zoneâ€_ÄÃ_ for encounters, however unequal? What is popular religion? Is there a natural dichotomy between lay Catholics and the official church, between rural and urban, popular and elite religiosity? How do such dichotomies limit our view of popular religious sensibilities, practices, and experiences? Finally, what role did religion play in the formation of colonial societies? And how has religion shaped Latin Americaâ€_Äôs social and political development and responses to the dilemmas of the modern era? We will read some primary sources as well as explore different historiographical debates and methods of studying religion in Latin America, paying attention to the different definitions and approaches to religion offered by historians, anthropologists, sociologists, theologians, and novelists.