(Photo by Hilreli, Album EleNão #EleNunca Barbacena: Manifestação realizada em 29/09/2018 na cidade de Barbacena – MG. Creative commons license, some rights reserved.)
October 24, 2018
Under the gaze of international social science, Brazil has often been the good case. While attentive to Brazil’s many historical afflictions – poverty, inequality, dictatorship, criminal violence, hyper-inflation, corruption – researchers have, in recent decades, spotlighted the country’s social and institutional advances. They have argued that Brazil is a case, for instance, in which mobilized civil society provided pressure on elites that contributed to the transition to democracy, in which urban popular movements organized for the expansion of social, political and economic rights, in which innovative and inclusive urban reforms provided a model of socially-embedded development, and in which the fragmented party system achieved a relative (if uneven) institutionalization in comparison to other countries in the region. Having lived through some of this history and written about the role of youth politics in democratic reconstruction, I have added my brushstrokes to this vibrant, hopeful (if still complex and contradictory) picture of a country I love. Brazil, as Brazilians often say, is “the country of the future,” always at the leading edge of the waves of history.
Scholarship over the last fifteen years has demonstrated why religion is so useful to people trying to mobilize for change. A number of scholars have made what I would call “social organization” arguments – congregations are physical places that allow for meetings among like-minded participants who have established leaders and communication networks. Further, for many congregations, denominational ties provide built-in connections between the local and national. Other scholars focus more on the “cultural” dimensions of religion and mobilizing – religious ideas are easily adapted to the moralized meanings that form “injustice frames.” A sense of religious duty can get people to internalize the idea that remedial action concerning that injustice is up to them, and motivates them to get personally involved. The stakes can be ultimate – religious people may feel their souls are at risk. And the “narrative turn” in social movement study can easily show how religious stories – ranging from those that recount the perseverance of persecuted people to those that reassure the faithful that the Almighty will guarantee their success – can be fitted to almost any situation a social movement faces. Continue reading