Warner-Garcia, “Sex and Faith in Dialogue”

Warner-Garica, Shawn Rachel. 2018. “Sex and Faith in Dialogue: Interdiscursivity and Academic Activism in Baptist Communities.” PhD Dissertation, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara. 

What do we talk about when we talk about sex? …[S]exuality as a form of knowledge is made possible by the discursive processes that constitute it. Discourse is the field on which particular ideologies, structures, and desires surrounding sexuality get played out. In many ways, discourse holds a unique status in religious contexts: it can be constructed as a holy artifact or a means to salvation, and it is also vital for creating and disseminating religious tradition and identity…

Scholarly inquiry into these three veins – discourse, sexuality, and Christianity – has spanned a number of disciplines and has been marked by disparate methodologies and analytic frameworks. My dissertation seeks to bring many of these threads together to provide a meaningful account of the current discourses around sexual ethics among Christians in the United States. I focus in particular on the Baptist denomination of Christianity as a site of study, since its loose denominational structure gives rise to a wide variety of beliefs and practices around sexuality that are discursively negotiated in community spaces. Through a methodology I call event ethnography, I provide an in-depth examination of the 2012 [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant to capture the complexities of this singular event as situated within its larger cultural context. I analyze the constraints of the physical space of the event, how plenary speakers interdiscursively engage with many of the same Christian texts and traditions in radically different ways, and the emergent dialogicality of the audience’s engagement both in person and online through Twitter. My analysis of this event shows the ways in which social histories, institutional structures, and spatiotemporal realities both enable and constrain particular types of discourse. I also explore the ways in which my research has morphed from a traditional focus on discourse analysis to a more activist approach of community-engaged research. I discuss the various ways I am currently collaborating with Baptist leaders in the development of resources that promote healthier, more holistic conversations around sexuality. I argue that these forms of academic activism can help build more robust scholarship as well as bring about positive social change.

Wilcox, “Queer Nuns”

Wilcox, Mellisa. 2018. Queer Nuns: Religion, Activism, and Serious Parody. New York: NYU Press. 

Publisher’s Description: The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence make up an unlikely order of nuns. Self-described as “twenty-first century queer nuns,” the Sisters began in 1979 when three bored gay men donned retired Roman Catholic nuns’ habits and went for a stroll through San Francisco’s gay Castro district. The stunned and delighted responses they received prompted these already-seasoned activists to consider whether the habits might have some use in social justice work, and within a year they had constituted the new order. Today, with more than 83 houses on four different continents, the Sisters offer health outreach, support, and, at times, protest on behalf of queer communities.

In Queer Nuns, Melissa M. Wilcox offers new insights into the role the Sisters play across queer culture and the religious landscape. The Sisters both spoof nuns and argue quite seriously that they are nuns, adopting an innovative approach the author refers to as serious parody. Like any performance, serious parody can either challenge or reinforce existing power dynamics, and it often accomplishes both simultaneously. The book demonstrates that, through the use of this strategy, the Sisters are able to offer an effective, flexible, and noteworthy approach to community-based activism.

Serious parody ultimately has broader applications beyond its use by the Sisters. Wilcox argues that serious parody offers potential uses and challenges in the efforts of activist groups to work within communities that are opposed and oppressed by culturally significant traditions and organizations – as is the case with queer communities and the Roman Catholic Church. This book opens the door to a new world of religion and social activism, one which could be adapted to a range of political movements, individual inclinations, and community settings.

Hale, “Religious Institutions and Collective Action”

Hale, Christopher W.  2017. Religious Institutions and Collective Action: The Catholic Church and Political Activism in Indigenous Chiapas and Yucatán.  Politics and Religion.  Early online publication.


Why do religious organizations facilitate secular political activism in
some settings but not others? I contend that where religious institutions are
characterized by decentralized local governance, they are more likely to
facilitate political activism. Drawing on nine months of field research and 60
interviews, I conduct a qualitative comparison between the Mexican states of
Chiapas and Yucatán. I argue Chiapas exhibits highly decentralized
governance by the Catholic Church whereas Yucatán exhibits centralized
clerical management. This difference accounts for why Chiapas experiences
high levels of indigenous political activism while Yucatán experiences very
little political activism.

Montemaggi, “The making of the relational Christian self”

Montemaggi, Francesca. 2017. “The making of the relational Christian self of New Monastics in the UK, US, and Canada.” In Monasticism in Modern Times, Isabelle Jonveaux and Stefania Palmisano, eds. 209-227.  London: Routledge.

Abstract: The chapter presents an overview of Anglo-American new monasticism based on ethnographic research in the UK, US, and Canada. New monastics are lay members of grass-roots communities, who do not belong to an established Monastic order; rather each community is autonomous and agrees a ‘rule’, a set of moral values and aspirations on how to live one’s life. The cross-national sample of communities points to the inclusivity as the overarching value for new monastics. This refers to inclusivity inside the group of fellow monastics and people attending monastic activities, but also to inclusivity of people at the margin of society, in particular in urban areas. This is expressed through the notion of hospitality. Taking as inspiration old monastic practices of the monastery as a safe haven, New monastic communities seek to ‘welcome the stranger’ in their midst. However, in contrast with old monastic communities, they choose to be located in inner-city areas to have a transformative impact on neighbourhoods facing socio-economic inequality. The chapter argues that inclusivity directs the formation of a Christian self that is relational and in dialectical opposition to – what they feel to be – the individualism of mainstream society.

Winter, “An activist religiosity?”

Winter, Emily.  2017. An activist religiosity? Exploring Christian support for the Occupy movement.  Journal of Contemporary Religion 32(1): 51-66.

Abstract: While Christian involvement in progressive social movements and activism is increasingly recognized, this literature has rarely gone beyond conceptualising religion as a resource to consider instead the ways in which individual activists may articulate their religious identity and how this intersects with the political. Based on ten in-depth interviews with Christian supporters of the London Occupy movement, this study offers an opportunity to respond to this gap by exploring the rich meaning-making processes of these activists. The article suggests that the location of the Occupy camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral was of central importance in bringing the Christian Occupiers’ religio-political identities to the foreground, their Christianity being defined in opposition to that represented by St Paul’s. The article then explores the religio-political meaning-making of the Christian Occupiers and introduces the term ‘activist religiosity’ as a way of understanding how religion and politics were articulated, and enacted, in similar ways. Indeed, religion and politics became considerably entangled and intertwined, rendering theoretical frameworks that conceptualise religion as a resource increasingly inappropriate. The features of this activist religiosity include post-institutional identities, a dislike of categorisation, and, centrally, the notion of ‘doings’—a predominant focus on engaged, active involvement.

Heywood, “Agreeing to disagree”

Heywood, Paolo.  2015. Agreeing to disagree: LGBTQ activism and the church in Italy.  Hau 5(2): 59-78.

Abstract: In 2012 the Bologna chapter of We Are Church, a group of lay liberal Catholics who lobby the Vatican to adopt a more progressive position on various issues, including homosexuality, sought to pursue a dialogue with the city’s LGBTQ community. The relative success of those conversations depended upon We Are Church persuading their anticlerical interlocutors, whose antipathy toward the Vatican runs deep, that they were an entirely different entity to the Catholic “hierarchy.” But in prevailing in this endeavor, they created a further obstacle for themselves: the more convincingly they distinguished themselves from orthodox Catholicism, the less convincing was their eponymous declaration of “We Are Church”; the further they traveled toward the positions held by their LGBTQ activist counterparts, the more likely they were to be dismissed as unrepresentative of Catholicism, and thus irrelevant. Thus in this case ethics across borders depends not only upon finding affinities and sustaining differences but also upon finding affinities over how to sustain differences. Similarly, I suggest that debates in anthropology surrounding radical difference may benefit from attending to the ways in which such difference itself can be the subject of agreement or disagreement.

Burgess, “Pentecostals and Development in Nigeria and Zambia”

Burgess, Richard H.  2015. Pentecostals and Development in Nigeria and Zambia: Community Organizing as a Response to Poverty and Violence.  PentecoStudies 14(2): 176-204.


Faith-based community organising is becoming increasingly recognized as an effective form of democratic engagement and community development, especially among low-to-middle income urban communities in the United States and Britain. This article focuses on two African Pentecostal initiatives with no formal links to Western community organising networks: the Young Ambassadors for Community Peace and Inter-Faith Foundation in Nigeria and the Jubilee Centre in Zambia. In both countries, neoliberal economics, associated with diminished public sectors and decreased government interventionism, has taken its toll, resulting in increased levels of unemployment, poverty and violent conflict. In response, these initiatives are engaged in citizen mobilization through training church and community leaders, and empowering ordinary people to improve the quality of life in their communities. While faith-based community organising is relatively rare in Nigeria and Zambia, the case studies discussed in this article show the potential of this form of intervention for generating social capital and addressing the dual crises of poverty and violence that assail the African continent. The article assesses the added value of Pentecostal beliefs and practices in relation to civic engagement and development.

Roldán, “Acción Cultural Popular”

Roldán, Mary.  2015.  Acción Cultural Popular, Responsible Procreation, and the Roots of Social Activism in Rural Colombia.  Latin American Research Review 49(S): 27-44.

Abstract: This essay examines the Responsible Procreation campaign of Acción Cultural Popular (ACPO) within the context of “zones of crisis” characterized not only by the legacy of long-standing violence but by tensions experienced within the Catholic Church and Colombian society at large during the tumultuous decades of the 1960s and 1970s. ACPO centered its Responsible Procreation campaign on a radical critique of authoritarian and exclusionary gender relations that could only be remedied by guaranteeing women’s access to education and their participation as equals in household and community decision making. As a Catholic-affiliated organization, ACPO enjoyed legitimacy many secular organizations did not, enabling it to provide spaces where rural Colombians, especially women, could experiment with voice and agency and explore alternative visions of citizenship and community development without fear of reprisal or social ostracism. Christian social activism, the essay concludes, often laid the basis for the proliferation today of social movements spearheaded by rural women.

Arellano-Yanguas, “Religion and Resistance to Extraction”

Arellano-Yanguas, Javier.  2015.  Religion and Resistance to Extraction in Rural Peru: Is the Catholic Church Following the People?.  Latin American Research Review 49 (S): 61-80.

Abstract: This article analyzes the Catholic Church’s involvement in social conflicts resulting from resource extraction activities in Peru. The nature and degree of the Catholic Church’s involvement vary greatly according to the type of conflict and the diversity of standpoints of the Church at the local level. The article focuses on three distinctive, widely known conflicts against the expansion of extractive activities. It shows that the importance conventionally given to the role of particular religious figures, their adherence to progressive ideologies, and the defense of the Church’s strategic interests do not fully encompass the complexity of local processes. In contrast, the article contends that the Church’s institutional embeddedness in local networks is the most influential factor in the involvement of Catholic organizations in anti-mining conflicts. Embeddedness coincides with a spirituality that prioritizes local people’s agency, whereby the priests and Church organizations accompany and follow the initiatives of local communities instead of taking a leading role. This does not mean that the Church takes a passive stance in these conflicts. Priests and other pastoral agents have incorporated environmental and human rights discourses into an explicit religious framework that amplifies the social space of the Church and provides legitimacy for mobilizations. In parallel, locally generated doctrinal frameworks permeate the official discourse of the Catholic Church, reinforcing the position of those committed to the defense of local demands.

Burgess, “Pentecostalism and Democracy in Nigeria”

Burgess, Richard.  2015. Pentecostalism and Democracy in Nigeria: Electoral Politics, Prophetic Practices, and Cultural Reformation.  Nova Religio 18(3): 38-62.

Abstract: This article examines the political dimensions of Pentecostalism in Nigeria, beginning with the historical development of Pentecostal political engagement since independence in 1960. A common observation is that much of global Pentecostalism is apolitical, but an assessment of Nigerian Pentecostalism shows a diversity of political orientations in response to inter-religious competition, as well as changing socio-economic contexts and theological orientations. Herein, I focus on the “third democratic revolution” involving the struggle for sustainable democracy (the first two being the anti-colonial struggle that brought independence and the 1980s-1990s challenge to one-party and military rule). As well, I examine different political strategies employed by Nigerian Pentecostals and assess their impact on direct political behavior, civil society practices and political culture.