Tag Archive for Latin American Studies

McAlister in The Conversation: For Some Catholics, It Is Demons That Taunt Priests with Sexual Desire

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, writes about a lesser-known factor contributing to the abuse of children uncovered in the Catholic Church: In some strands of Catholic thought, priests who abuse children have succumbed to temptation by demons. McAlister is also chair and professor of African American studies, director of the Center for African American Studies, professor of American studies, professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, professor of Latin American studies.

For some Catholics, it is demons that taunt priests with sexual desire

A Pennsylvania grand jury recently released a report on the systematic ways Catholic priests aided and abetted one another to sexually abuse children for 70 years.

It reveals once again how the strict patriarchal hierarchy of the Catholic Church gives rise to conspiracies of silence and allows for routine cover-up of crimes. Cover-ups are also encouraged by clericalism – the belief that ordained priests are inherently superior and closer to God than the laity. This much has been demonstrated by countless observers.

But there is another, lesser-known factor contributing to the abuse, that I want to point out as a scholar of spiritual warfare in some forms of Christianity. This factor lies in the realm of belief: In some strands of Catholic thought, when priests abuse children, it is because they have been tempted by demons, and succumbed.

History of demon beliefs

The Catholic Church invites priests to view sexuality as a battle in the war between good and evil. Spiritual warfare is one name for this view of the world and it has a long history in Catholic teachings.

The idea of demons has been around since antiquity – in the Mediterranean world, the Middle East and elsewhere. In Christianity, preoccupation with demons reached its peak in the Middle Ages. Demons were explicitly defined by the church in 1215 under Pope Innocent III.

Theologians worked to identify classes and ranks of demons who operated under the authority of the devil himself. Demons were seen as fallen angels who disobeyed God and worked to subvert God and goodness.

Demons are malevolent beings who lord over specific domains of sin. Christians are called to battle evil, including evil that comes by way of the demonic. The more pious one is, the more intense will be the attacks from the demons.

After the Second Vatican Council of 1964, demons faded out of focus and exorcisms were rare. But my research shows that the spiritual warfare world view is on the rise in the Catholic Church. This is despite the fact that demons and exorcisms are largely viewed by most American Catholics as remnants of a medieval past.

The return of demons and exorcisms

In 1999, Pope John Paul II brought back a focus on the formal rites of exorcism – the official ritual that priests use to rid a person from demonic affliction or possession. The pope later recommended that every diocese in the Catholic world appoint and train an exorcist.

The Catholic Church in the United States took up the call and in 2012 founded the Pope Leo XII Institute in Illinois to support “the spiritual formation of priests to bring the light of Christ to dispel evil.” To this day it serves as a “school for exorcism and deliverance” of the laity from demons.

The institute offers workshops for clergy such as “Angels and Demons, Natures and Attributes.”

Under this belief system, in the battle for souls, demons can establish relationships with people who open the door to them through sin and disobedience to God. If someone masturbates, for example, which is a mortal sin, they are opening the door wider to demons of more serious sexual perversion.

Such demons include figures mentioned in the Bible such as Baal, the ancient Phoenician sun God, and his consort Ashtoreth, now viewed as a force of sexual immorality and perversion. Jezebel, the ninth-century B.C. Phoenician princess, lives into the modern era as a demonic personality who encourages illicit sexual acts, violence and rape.

Devil and role-play in one church

Writing for Commonweal, an American Catholic journal, one ex-seminarian described a formation, or training, workshop sponsored by his seminary. He described how participants were given nametags with the names of demons on them and asked to play the role of demons to tempt one another. He explained how they would choose one person and “hiss and curse” to entice him to “watch pornography” and “masturbate.”

The point, of course, was to train the participants how to choose chastity and to stand strong against sexual desire.

To be clear, this is only one documented instance. However, I would argue that it points to the Church’s current preoccupation with evil spirits and the need for priests to ritually remove that evil.

It is sobering that one seminary should choose to offer those training for a life of service and celibacy, a role-play of hissing demon impersonators, as a way to govern their conduct.

Medieval practices in today’s church?

Ascribing sexual desire to demonic temptation takes away the blame from the perpetrators. It puts the cause, the consequences, and questions of accountability into an invisible world populated by angels and demons, sin and repentance.

Suggesting that the offending priests were afflicted by demons is a version of “the devil made me do it.”

There is a second heartbreak. Many of the abused report feeling guilty, as if they had sinned themselves. I have heard from my own research participants that because sinning opens the door to more demons and more sin, then some abuse survivors think of themselves as being in relationships with personal demons and more vulnerable to demonic attack.

As investigations continue into the institutional factors allowing for this horrific abuse, it may also be pertinent to look into some of the intellectual and theological elements at the heart of the Catholic tradition.

For some branches of the Church, this includes the medieval world of demons.

Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, Wesleyan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Khamis Named a Harvard Kennedy School WAPPP Fellow

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis, assistant professor of economics and of Latin American studies, was named a fellow of the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) at Harvard Kennedy School for the 2018–2019 academic year.

In this fellowship, she hopes to continue and expand her research on “Gender in the Labor Market,” with a particular focus on the gender wage gap and occupational choices of women.

“I am excited to have this opportunity to join and work with a community of leading researchers in this field,” said Khamis.

According to its website, WAPPP is dedicated to closing “gender gaps in economic opportunity, political participation, health and education by creating knowledge, training leaders and informing public policy and organizational practices.” The fellowship program brings in exceptional scholars to conduct gender-related research in one of these areas and to engage with faculty and students at Harvard Kennedy School, enriching the intellectual life of the center.

Savage ’18 Awarded Princeton in Latin America Fellowship

Anna Savage ’18 will complete a Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) fellowship in the Dominican Republic.

Anna Savage ’18 has received a Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) fellowship to work with the Mariposa Foundation in Cabarete, a town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. She will begin the fellowship after graduation in May.

Savage follows a proud tradition of Wesleyan students participating in PiLA fellowships. The Mariposa Foundation works to end generational poverty by providing a space in which girls and young women can receive high-quality academic and artistic instruction, as well as comprehensive sexual health education. The Mariposa center serves about 150 girls and places particular emphasis on musical and artistic expression, as well as on the cultivation of leadership skills.

Savage will teach music, yoga, and English at the center, where she will develop her own curriculum and instruct girls aged seven to 18 in daily classes.

Khamis Co-Authors Article on Effects of Historical Labor Policies on Women

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis, assistant professor of economics and assistant professor of Latin American studies, has co-authored a new paper published in the December 2017 issue of Labour Economics. The paper, titled “Women make houses, women make homes,” examines the effects of historical labor market institutions and policies on women’s labor market outcomes.

To conduct the research, Khamis and her colleagues studied the “rubble women” of post–World War II Germany, who were subject to a 1946 Allied Control Council command that required women between the ages of 15 and 50 to register with a labor office and to participate in postwar cleanup and reconstruction.

The study showed that this mandatory employment had persistent longstanding adverse effects on German women’s overall participation in the labor market. Possible reasons for this include physical and mental exhaustion associated with the demanding manual labor involved in removing war debris; an increase in postwar marriage and fertility rates; and a reversion to traditional gender roles as men returned from war.

The findings highlight how important it is for countries—especially those recovering from conflict—to develop labor market institutions and policies that support women’s participation in the workforce. In addition, the paper concludes, “Our results also provide suggestive evidence that work-contingent income support programs may have limited positive effects on female future labor market outcomes and welfare dependency unless such policies are further backed up by the provision of quality child care and labor market institutions at large.”

McAlister Writes Op-Ed on ‘Demystifying Vodou’

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister, chair and professor of religion, is the co-author of an op-ed on CNN titled, “Haiti and the distortion of its Vodou religion.”

Together with her co-author, Millery Polyné, a Haitian-American professor of African-American and Caribbean history at the Gallatin School–NYU, she provides an introduction to the Vodou religion—the creation of African slaves who were brought to Haiti and converted by Roman Catholic missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. While Vodou shares much with Christianity, and its initiates must be Roman Catholic, it departs in its views of the cosmos. Vodou teaches that there is no heaven or hell, and humans are “simply spirits who inhabit the visible world in a physical body.”

They explain:

Historically, Vodou has been an emancipatory faith that enslaved people turned to when they were brutalized.

For that reason, French slave owners considered Vodou a threat and that is why it has been grossly misrepresented by white colonists and Haitian political and spiritual leaders alike.

Indeed, Vodou spirits inspired the revolution against Haiti’s French colonizers more than 200 years ago that established Haiti as the second independent nation in the Americas after the United States — and the first to abolish slavery.

It was during a religious and political gathering that enslaved Africans and Creoles mounted an insurrection against plantation owners in August 1791. This famous nighttime meeting — known as the ceremony at Bois Caïman — was a tremendous feat of strategic organizing, since it unified Africans assembled from different plantations and diverse ethnic groups.

At this clandestine ceremony, a leader named Dutty Boukman led an oath to fight for freedom. A priestess named Cecile Fatiman consecrated the vow when she asked the African ancestral spirits for protection during the upcoming battle.

Under a tree, she slaughtered a black pig as an offering.

Two weeks later, the rebels set plantations ablaze and poisoned drinking wells, kicking off the revolution.

Panicked slave owners throughout the Americas reacted by clamping down with extra force on all African-based religious practices.

They circulated stories that linked the religion with blood and violence, images that endure to this day.

McAlister is also professor of American Studies, professor of African American studies, professor of Latin American studies, and professor of Feminist, Gender & Sexuality studies.

 

McGuire: Is Brazil Better Prepared Than the U.S. to Fight Zika?

James McGuire

James McGuire

James McGuire, professor and chair of government, professor of Latin American studies, is the author of a new op-ed titled, “Is Brazil Better Prepared than the U.S. to Fight Zika?”

Brazil is ground zero for the recent wave of Zika infections. McGuire argues that the country “is better prepared to fight Zika than many people think—and is, in some ways, better prepared to fight Zika than the United States.”

The Zika virus is difficult to fight, and Brazil faces some major obstacles, including a deep economic crisis, political turmoil, and an ongoing battle against other infectious diseases. Still, he writes, “Brazil has advantages in the struggle: a history of public disease control in the northeast dating back to World War II; a large and talented public health community; and years of experience with evidence-based public health interventions.

“It is no accident that the government knew where to send the 220,000 soldiers, because health data on the country’s 5,600 counties have become more complete, transparent and available during the last couple of decades. Most important, the Brazilian government in the mid-1990s expanded the Family Health Program (now Family Health Strategy), which by 2014 involved 39,000 health teams, each providing primary health care to about 1,000 specified households, including through home visits.”

In contrast, the United States “lacks a public health structure of the size and efficacy of Brazil’s for destroying mosquito breeding sites, educating high-risk populations, monitoring the spread of the disease and counseling expectant mothers.”

In the United States, mosquito monitoring and eradication is handled by 700 disconnected and underfunded public agencies, mostly administered at the municipal level but funded in part by the federal government. Federal funding for mosquito control fell from $24 million in 2004 to $10 million in 2012.

In February 2016 Congress denied President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika, demanding instead that he shift money earmarked for the fight against Ebola. On April 7 the Obama administration, citing a public health emergency, shifted about $500 million from Ebola to Zika.

The United States is a rich country with a temperate climate, but lacks an integrated public health service provision and disease control program like Brazil’s Family Health Strategy. Not surprisingly, then, both Mississippi and the vastly poorer Brazilian state of Espirito Santo have identical infant mortality rates: 9.6 per 1000.

Originally published on Inside Sources, the oped also appeared in Newsday.

McAlister Authors New Paper on the Militarization of Prayer in America

Professor of Religion Elizabeth McAlister is the author of a new paper, “The Militarization of Prayer in America: White and Native American Spiritual Warfare” published Jan. 4 in the Journal of Religious and Political Practice.

In the article, McAlister examines how militarism has come to be one of the generative forces of the prayer practices of millions of Christians across the globe. She focuses on the articulation between militarization and aggressive forms of prayer, especially the evangelical warfare prayer developed by North Americans since the 1980s. Against the backdrop of the rise in military spending and neoliberal economic policies, spiritual warfare evangelicals have taken on the project of defending the United States on the “spiritual” plane. They have elaborated a complex theology and prayer practice with a highly militarized discourse and set of rituals for doing “spiritual battle” and conducting “prayer strikes” on the “prayer battlefield.” The research draws on ethnographic fieldwork at an intensive spiritual warfare boot camp organized by a group of Native Americans who have founded a training base in Oklahoma dedicated to training recruits in the theology and practical strategy of spiritual warfare.

Despite their hyper-aggressive rhetorical and ideological stance, members of this network in fact practice self-sacrificial rituals of fasting, holiness and submission to the Holy Spirit. Native prayer warriors are using spiritual warfare prayer to assert a privileged place for themselves in Christian life as heirs of God’s authority over the stewardship of North American land and as central to the project of repairing sinful pasts both on and off the reservations, reconciling present racial conflict, and defending the land in spiritual battle against new immigrant invasions by foreign, demonic forces.

McAlister also is professor of American studies, professor of African American studies, professor of Latin American studies, and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Elizabeth McAlister on the State of Vodou in Haiti Today

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Professor of Religion Elizabeth McAlister spoke to The Guardian about the state of the Vodou religion in Haiti today.

“Most Americans don’t know that they don’t know what Vodou really is,” said McAlister, who specializes in Haitian Vodou.

The article describes the actual practice of Vodou, and discusses its critical place in Haiti’s history as the first black republic. And turning to McAlister for her expertise, it addresses Vodou’s stance on homosexuality.

“Many, many gays and lesbians are valued members of Vodou societies,” explains McAlister, who has devoted years to researching LGBT in Haitian religion. “There is an idea that Vodou spirits that are thought to be gay ‘adopt’ and protect young adults who then become gay.”

“Vodou ‘does gender’ totally differently than the Christian tradition,” McAlister explains. After all, Vodou has gender fluidity at the core: men might become mediums for female spirits, women for male spirits. “But Christians, especially evangelicals, have zero flexibility for this; they see homosexuality as a sin, period.”

Stigmatized as a primitive, or even wicked religion, Vodou is inherently progressive and inclusive, McAlister continues.

“Vodou tends to be radically unjudgmental,” she explains. “The alcoholic, the thief, the homeless, the mentally ill, all of these people are welcomed into a Vodou temple and given respect.”

In reality, McAlister emphasizes, Vodou is far more similar to a close-knit church community than most Americans could ever imagine.

McAlister is also professor of African American studies, professor of American studies, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and professor of Latin American studies.

Assistant Professor of American Studies Grappo ’01 Teaches Latino Studies, Queer Studies

Assistant Professor of American Studies Laura Grappo, who graduated from Wesleyan in 2001, is interested in Latino studies and queer studies.

Assistant Professor of American Studies Laura Grappo, who graduated from Wesleyan in 2001, is interested in Latino studies and queer studies.

Q: Welcome back to Wesleyan, Professor Grappo! Can you please fill us in on what you’ve done since graduating from Wes?

A: After graduating from Wesleyan in 2001, I worked a fifth grade teacher at a Catholic school in the Bronx. Then I went to grad school at Yale and got my Ph.D. in American Studies. I took a job for a couple years as an assistant professor of American studies at Dickinson College, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania. Last year, I came to Wesleyan as a visiting professor, and this year I began as a full-time, tenure-track professor.

Q: How does it feel to be back at Wesleyan?

A: I’m excited to be back. I had a wonderful experience here as an undergrad. It was really formative for me as a scholar and I made good friends and enjoyed many of the resources Wesleyan offers. When I saw there was a position open here, it seemed like a terrific opportunity, as not only is Wesleyan an incredible institution, but it’s also in a great area of the country, with so many excellent resources—other universities,

McGuire Authors Chapter on Democracy, Political Regimes

James McGuire and Guillermo O'Donnell in 1985.

James McGuire and Guillermo O’Donnell in 1985.

Professor of Government James McGuire is the author of a book chapter titled “Democracy, Agency and the Classification of Political Regimes,” published in Reflections on Uneven Democracies: The Legacy of Guillermo O’Donnell by Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

Guillermo O’Donnell (1936-2011) was widely recognized as the world’s leading scholar of Latin American politics. During his doctoral studies, McGuire worked closely with O’Donnell in both Argentina and the United States, translating from Spanish to English O’Donnell’s Bureaucratic Authoritarianism: Argentina, 1966-1973, in Comparative Perspective (University of California Press, 1988).

McGuire’s chapter in this new volume commemorating O’Donnell’s life and work argues that schemes for classifying political regimes in Latin America could be improved by defining democracy in a way that gives more priority to human agency, and thereby to the opportunity to lead a thoughtfully chosen life; by recognizing that democracy affects social and political outcomes not only through electoral competition, but also through the freedoms of expression and organization, as well as through long-term cultural changes; and by applying contemporary rather than past standards to decide whether a country meets the operational criteria for democracy.

 

 

Latin American Studies Major Lewis ’13 is Passionate about Reducing Inequality, Poverty

After graduating in May, Hannah Lewis '13 will head to Panama where she has a job lined up as an associate project director with Amigos de las Americas. "Many students here," she said, "want to—and will—change the world for the better."

After graduating in May, Hannah Lewis ’13 will head to Panama where she has a job lined up as an associate project director with Amigos de las Americas. “Many students here,” she said, “want to—and will—change the world for the better.”

Q: Hannah, what are you majoring in and what are some of your research interests?

A: I’m a Latin American studies major, with a concentration in Spanish. I’m really interested in exploring different avenues regarding community development, poverty alleviation, and social policies in Latin America. For my major’s research requirement, I wrote a paper analyzing Ecuador’s human and social development progress from 1990 to 2010.

Q: What is your personal interest in Latin America?

A: I grew up in Texas, where I was surrounded by Hispanic influences and debates on immigration. But I first fell in love with the culture, language and people of Latin America after spending a summer in Nicaragua when I was 16. I go back whenever I get the chance! I’ve been lucky enough to spend the past two summers working for Amigos de las Americas, coordinating community development and youth leadership projects in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. Besides meeting some amazing people, I’ve also learned to make delicious tostones and dance bachata. I studied abroad in Ecuador my junior year and learned about Andean and Afro-Ecuadorian cultures. And after living in Latin America and collaborating with the people there, I’ve become really passionate about exploring ways to reduce inequality and poverty in the region.

Q: You’ll be graduating May 26. What are your plans after graduation?

A: About five days after I graduate, I’ll be heading to Coclé, Panama, where I have a summer job as an associate project director with Amigos de las Americas. I also recently received a Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) Fellowship to work as the Program Director at an amazing non-profit called Building Dignity next year. I’ll be moving to Lima, Peru in September, which I am very excited about!

Q: So you’re from Texas. What attracted you to Wesleyan? What will you miss most about campus life?

A: I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, but I really wanted to go somewhere new for college. As a pre-frosh I came to WesFest, sat on Foss Hill, and talked with random students about their experiences here. Everyone I met had so much passion, humor and creativity. The people who go here are my favorite part about Wes, and I will definitely miss the inspiration and energy that I am surrounded by daily. So many students here want to—and will—change the world for the better.

Q: What are your favorite classes this semester?

A: I’ve enjoyed all my classes this semester, especially “Sites of Memory and Resistance: Theater, Performance and Political Consciousness in Contemporary Spain” with Professor Bernardo Gonzalez and “Latin American Economic Development” taught by Professor Melanie Khamis.

Von Vacano ’93 Compares Four Thinkers’ Thoughts on Race

Diego Von Vacano '93

In his new work The Color of Citizenship (Oxford University Press), Diego Von Vacano ’93 suggests that the tradition of Latin American and Hispanic political thought which has long considered the place of mixed-race peoples throughout the Americas, is uniquely well-positioned to provide useful ways of thinking about the connections between race and citizenship. He argues that debates in the United States about multiracial identity, the possibility of a post-racial world in the aftermath of Barack Obama, and demographic changes owed to the age of mass migration will inevitably have to confront the intellectual tradition related to racial admixture that comes to us from Latin America.

Book by Diego Von Vacano '93

Von Vacano compares the way that race is conceived across the writings of four thinkers, and across four different eras: the Spanish friar Bartolome de Las Casas writing in the context of empire; Simon Bolivar writing during the early republican period; Venezuelan sociologist Laureano Vallenilla Lanz on the role of race in nationalism; and Mexican philosopher Jose Vasconcelos writing on the aesthetic approach to racial identity during the cosmopolitan, post-national period.

Von Vacano’s study advances an alternative concept of race as inherently mixed, unstable, fluid, and politically potent. He links approaches to race in Latin American thought to canonical Western political discourse and posits “race” as a central component of modernity and of political theory.

Von Vacano is assistant professor of political science at Texas A&M University.