Co-edited by Dr. Sergio González, assistant professor of Latinx Studies in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences
Too often religious politics are considered peripheral to social movements, not central to them. Faith and Power: Latino Religious Politics Since 1945 seeks to correct this misinterpretation, focusing on the post–World War II era. It shows that the religious politics of this period were central to secular community-building and resistance efforts.
Dr. González answered some questions about his new book, including his favorite part of the editing process, the origins of the idea for Faith and Power and what he hopes it can accomplish.
How would you describe the book in one sentence?
Faith and Power illuminates how religion has shaped Latino politics and community building throughout the twentieth century.
Is this your first book? What is your publishing history?
This is my second book and first co-edited book. My first book was Mexicans in Wisconsin (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2017), which offered a concise introductory history of Mexican settlement and community formation across the state.
I’m currently working on my third book called Strangers No Longer: Latino Belonging and Faith in 20th Century Wisconsin. It explores the relationship between migration, religiosity, and the Christian ethic of hospitality in Latinx communities in twentieth-century Wisconsin. It’s an interdisciplinary project that melds history, religious studies, and Latinx Studies to trace how Latinxs of diverse national and class backgrounds have grappled with the different receptions they’ve received in their new homes in the Midwest. The book is under advanced contract with the University of Illinois Press and will be included in the field-defining series “Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest.”
Where did the idea for this book come from?
This book started, as many edited volumes do, with a simple conversation among friends. The co-editors had come together for a panel presentation at the Western History Association Conference in San Antonio, Texas in the fall of 2018. Our panel, “Redefining Activism: New Directions in Latina/o Religious History,” generated robust conversation among the panelists and audience members who had generously trudged to the hotel conference room for an 8:30 a.m. presentation. Afterward, sipping overpriced coffee in the hotel lobby, Felipe (Dr. Felipe Hinojosa, associate professor of history at Texas A&M) broached the idea of expanding our conversations about the individual interventions we hoped to make in Latinx Studies and religious history and turning them into an edited volume. We were all thrilled about the possibility of working together, and we laid out a plan to bring together some of the most exciting historians working in the field, scholars across generational cohorts who were actively engaged in exploring the intersections between Latinx political power, faith, and religious institutions. With contributors lined up and a contract for publication from New York University Press in hand, we set off to develop our volume.
This book started, as many edited volumes do, with a simple conversation among friends. We had come together for a panel presentation at the Western History Association Conference in San Antonio, Texas in the fall of 2018. Our panel, “Redefining Activism: New Directions in Latina/o Religious History,” generated robust conversation among the presenters and the audience members who had generously trudged to the hotel conference room for an 8:30 a.m. presentation. Afterwards, sipping overpriced coffee in the hotel lobby, Felipe (Dr. Felipe Hinojosa, associate professor of history at Texas A&M) broached the idea of expanding our conversations about the individual interventions we hoped to make in Latinx Studies and religious history and turning them into an edited volume. Excited about the possibility of working together, we laid out a plan to bring together some of the most exciting historians working the field, scholars across generational cohorts who were actively engaged in exploring the intersections between Latinx political power, faith, and religious institutions. With contributors lined up and a contract for publication from New York University Press in hand, we set off to develop our volume.
What do you hope to accomplish with this book?
Too often religious politics are seen as peripheral and symbolic to political identity and social movements, but not necessarily central to them. Historians have misunderstood these important connections in part because scholarship on Latinx religion has focused on spirituality, belief systems, and cultural expressions of faith, as well as obsessively tracking data on Latinxs’ religious affiliation. Media pundits and cultural observers meanwhile, often simplistically tag Latinx political orientations along denominational associations, ignoring the reality that Latina/o religious politics fluctuate across time and community and are not neatly tied to religious affiliation or denomination.
This volume then seeks to address what we felt were pressing questions for both historians and a larger public. It explores religion and religious politics as part of the larger ecosystem that has shaped Latinx communities specifically and American politics in general. While this project acknowledges that Latinx religious politics have never been only radical, instead involving both conservative and progressive politics, we do contend that they reveal how ordinary people—religious and non-religious— have made sense of their present and worked to build a better future for their churches, neighborhoods, and nation.
How does this book advance or complement your research and/or teaching?
To study Latinx history is to be engaged in active, participatory processes of intellectual discovery while searching for ways to dismantle our community’s most pressing social, economic, and political barriers. These practices guide my research, teaching, and service, both inside and beyond the classroom. My work in putting this volume together, both as an editor and as a contributor of a chapter, as well as all my scholarship and teaching, seek to answer a central question: how do Latinx communities develop a sense of belonging in spaces that have not always been hospitable to them?
The large themes of Latinx communities, faith, and politics, which guide this volume, run through my current research project on Latinx faith in Wisconsin, as does my chapter contribution to the volume. My specific chapter in this book examines the development of movements for immigrant and refugee sanctuary within religious spaces in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. I draw from my larger research on sanctuary in the U.S. Midwest to connect the histories of movements to aid Central American refugees fleeing persecution in their homelands and arbitrary deportation from the United States in the 1980s with the growth of the nascent New Sanctuary Movement of the twenty-first century. By placing these movements for Latina/o immigrant and refugee justice into conversation, I work to illuminate the genealogies of sanctuary and hospitality that have developed across interfaith and interethnic spaces in the last four decades.
I also find ways to incorporate these topics in each of the classes that I teach. They show up in specific lectures in my class on Urban History (HOPR 2956H) and take up a considerable amount of time and consideration in my Latinx Studies courses (LLAC 1011: Introduction to Latinx Studies; HISTORY 4125: Latinx Civil Rights Movements; HISTORY 4930: Midwestern Latinx Communities). And these academic commitments certainly guide my service commitments both at Marquette and across the state. At Marquette, I serve on committees working to make our campus a more welcoming space for DREAMers and undocumented students as well as those expanding our university’s Hispanic Serving Institution Initiative. Outside of campus, I’ve worked as an organizer for the sanctuary movement and currently serve on the board of Voces de la Frontera, Wisconsin’s largest and most active immigrant justice organization.
What was your favorite part of the writing/editing process?
Perhaps the most fulfilling part of this process was learning how to collaborate – virtually – with colleagues and friends that I truly admire and respect, during a global pandemic. It’s difficult to pull off an edited volume in the best of times but even harder as we worked to navigate all the added stresses of the last few years.A week before we were to meet at Texas A&M University in March 2020 to exchange ideas, critique each other’s drafts, and listen to our ideas about Latinx religion and politics, COVID-19 stopped us in our tracks. Of course, after those chaotic first days in March 2020, we all had to stay home and learn how to live entirely new lives: socially distant, masks on, and with daily Zoom meetings. In the late spring and early summer months of 2020, as we adjusted to our new realities and focused on keeping our families safe, our editorial team lost touch with our contributors. The possibility of this project falling apart felt very real as we shifted our energies to learning how to teach virtually from home, how to care for sick loved ones, and where to find hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Somehow, however, we found the will (the faith?) to push forward and continue the work. Part of it, we think, is that as co-editors of this collection, we genuinely enjoyed collaborating with each other – it’s not every day that you have an opportunity to build a project with people you enjoy spending time with. Perhaps just as important was the simple fact that we couldn’t shake the feeling that the underlying questions we were asking in this project – how do Latinas/os build community, how do they find a sense of belonging, where are the spaces where they can most feel empowered and full – could help address some of the most pressing issues facing Latinx communities today.
- Publisher: NYU Press (Feb. 22, 2022)
- Language: English
- Paperback: 350 pages
- ISBN-10: 1479804525
- ISBN-13: 978-1479804528