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Activist Faith

Grassroots Women in Democratic Brazil and Chile

Carol Ann Drogus, Hannah Stewart-Gambino

Publication Year: 2006

Published by: Penn State University Press


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pp. vi-viii

This book grew out of a specific question: what happened to the generation of working-class women whose grassroots activism in Catholic base communities fired the Brazilian and Chilean pro-democracy movements? After the democratic transitions and the consequent shift in scholarly attention back to traditional political actors, these women disappeared from official view. One of our goals was certainly to reclaim their...

List of Acronyms

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pp. ix-xi

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1. Activism and Its Aftermath

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pp. 1-18

Maritza Sandoval’s story is that of many poor Brazilian and Chilean women.1 The Brazilian (1964–85) and Chilean (1973–90) military regimes that set out to control and depoliticize civil society ended up creating new and unexpected sources of opposition from people such as Maritza. Although many had never previously joined any kind of organized group outside the home, poor women heroically rose to meet the challenges...

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2. Understanding Invisibility: Perspectives on Social Movement Decline

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pp. 19-36

In Brazilian and Chilean base Christian communities—in which small consciousness-raising and reflection groups inspired by liberation theology were formed—poor people, and especially poor women, experienced both individual and collective empowerment. Veronica Pardo’s testimony above captures this transformation in women’s lives in her Chilean community. Women’s expanded awareness produced...

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3. Resurrecting Civil Society: Christian Base Communities Under Military Rule

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pp. 37-69

The Catholic Church was uniquely positioned to play a crucial role in the resurrection of civil society and the upsurge of protest that accompanied redemocratization in Brazil and Chile. Although other sources of opposition, besides the church, existed, many of these, such as independent unions, in fact depended on church support and protection. Moreover, none had the reach, legitimacy, or protected status that enabled the church to mobilize...

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4. Earthquake Versus Erosion: Church Retreat and Social Movement Decline

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pp. 70-102

The transition to democracy changed the church, society, and politics in both Chile and Brazil in many ways. Changes in the politics of the church that coincided with the decline in the cycle of social movement protest deeply affected women activists. Similar forces in both countries—including Vatican pressures, religious competition, the complexities of party politics, and a neoliberal economic agenda—combined...

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5. Keeping the Faith: Empowerment and Activism in a New Era

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pp. 103-128

In Chapters 1 and 3 we described the sense of personal empowerment that the women—and especially the poorer women with no prior political experience— gained in the base communities. We have shown that women regard participation in the base communities as an awakening or a revelation, and they claim that the new experiences of speaking and acting publicly changed their personal lives and opened...

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6. Catholics and Pentecostals: Possibilities for Alliance

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pp. 129-153

Latin America experienced a number of dramatic changes during the 1960s and 1970s, including a new spirit of ecumenical cooperation. Especially after the wave of military coups, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders allied to denounce arbitrary imprisonment, torture, “disappearances,” and other statesponsored violence. Catholic progressives in a number of countries wove a network of solidarity and political...

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7. Activist Women and Women’s Activists: Possibilities for Networking with Feminist Groups

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pp. 154-185

As potential allies of grassroots women activists from the base communities, classic feminist groups differ from Protestant groups in many ways. Perhaps most important, classical feminist organizations, unlike Protestant churches, typically are not located in the women’s neighborhoods and do not share most aspects of their life conditions. Nonetheless, alliances...

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8. Legacies of Activism: Personal Empowerment, Movement Survival

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pp. 186-196

Brazilian and Chilean women activists from the popular classes have shared, to a large extent, a common trajectory. Their experiences have been closely intertwined with the history of the liberationist church, for it was in the base communities that most got their initial taste of activism. They mobilized in various ways during the democratic transitions, only to watch in dismay as the movements in...


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pp. 197-206


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pp. 207-212

E-ISBN-13: 9780271052885
E-ISBN-10: 0271052880
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271025506
Print-ISBN-10: 0271025506

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2006