Strangers and Priests: Latino Activists and Contested Communities in a Movement for Immigration Reform
Davis, Stephen P.
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Immigrants and their supporters filled Chicago’s streets on March 10 and May 1, 2006, to protest legislation aimed at banning “aid and comfort” for undocumented immigrants. The largest street mobilizations in the city’s history, these events were part of an unprecedented level of activism throughout the U.S. on the part of immigrants and their families, churches, labor unions, and schools. Chicago was a major locus of activism because of its Latino immigrant population and its Catholic infrastructure which, at the parish level, includes priests and nuns influenced by liberation theology. This research examines aspects of the immigrant rights movement from 2005 to 2016, including a period of intensive participant observation (2006--2011) among the Priests for Justice for Immigrants (PJI) organization and among the laity of Latino immigrant parishes on the southwest and north sides of the city. The movement is analyzed as locally led and fortified by deeply held Christian beliefs, as well as an inclusive, ecumenical approach to social-justice activism. This progressive, parish-based focus is maintained despite the tendency in Catholic and mainstream media to privilege top-down views from the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and despite a wider tendency among conservative Catholics to frame their worldviews as “authentic Christianity” while framing progressive Catholics as inauthentic and effectively “politicizing religion.” In this ethnographic project, discourses and behaviors surrounding progressive Catholicism are examined as grounded in theology and the experiences of numerous individuals, groups, and communities, with attention to the following questions: What happens when novel types of activism emerge within an institution that in many ways is deeply conservative? What types of discourses arise that are both progressive and Catholic? How does clerical activism on behalf of immigrants transform practices in the Catholic Church? And how do progressive Catholics make claims to authenticity while supporting immigrant rights? This project also examines ways in which women have led and reinforced Latino activism, both in support of the Church and in opposition to it.
anthropology of religion
Priests for Justice for Immigrants
Date available in INDIGO2016-07-01T20:51:40Z
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