Religion and Politics in the Americas

Religion and Politics in the Americas is a 3-year initiative funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation that aims to promote transnational interdisciplinary research and dialogue between scholars, artists, activists and policymakers regarding the intersection of religion and politics in the Americas. Program activities include lectures, courses, performances, a flagship conference and policy roundtables in the United States, Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Canada. The initiative will convene a permanent Americas-wide working group and publish a trilingual blog on religion in the public sphere.

Blog: States of Devotion

Launched in November 2010, States of Devotion is an interactive forum for news, scholarly analysis and opinion- making about the intersection of religion and politics in the Americas. Under the editorship of Ann Pellegrini, blog content will include news updates, thematic dossiers, editorials, interviews, image/video galleries and more. A team of expert scholars, artists and policy practitioners from throughout the hemisphere will be invited to serve as regular and guest blog contributors. We encourage you to visit us and participate at

Symposium: Religión en la esfera pública: Ley, derechos y la lucha por el cuerpo

June 18-19, 2015, Buenos Aires, Argentina

This conference took place June 18-19, 2015 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was organized in collaboration with Catholics for Choice-Argentina and the Red ALAS (Latin American Network of Legal Scholars). The first day of the event consisted of a symposium held at the Auditorium of Argentina’s National Congress. Speakers included distinguished scholars from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, as well as representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Argentine Association for Civil Liberties, the Latin American Network of Feminist Lawyers, Amnesty International, and other organizations. The event was inaugurated by the Honorable Mara Brawer, congresswoman from the Province of Buenos Aires, and was attended by over 100 activists, lawyers, and scholars from throughout Argentina and the Americas. The second day consisted of a closed workshop for presenters held at NYU-Buenos Aires.

Work Group: Religion and Politics in the Americas

June 21-28, 2014, Concordia University, Montréal

This permanent work group convenes participants from a multi-year initiative on Religion and Politics in the Americas supported by the Luce Foundation. The core focus is to examine the legal, social, and biopolitical mechanisms through which religious diversity is managed in the Americas, and how these mechanisms are reshaping the work of scholars and policy practitioners across the region. The group seeks to develop a vocabulary capable of speaking across boundaries and to elaborate more precise research questions in order to better comprehend the transnational processes driving changes in the place and role of religion in the public sphere.

Forum: Religious Freedom "versus" Equal Rights? Emerging Dilemmas in Law and Policy Across the Americas

April 24-25, 2014, Hemispheric Institute, New York University

This symposium considered the tensions—real and alleged—between religious freedom and social equality. These disputes across the Americas reveal the fractures and realignments that occur when the dominance or hegemony of particular religious institutions come under challenge, whether due to an increase in religious diversity and/or to changes at the level of the state. This forum featured presentations and discussion by a group of legal scholars, policy practitioners, and religious studies and gender and sexuality studies scholars from Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, and the U.S. who addressed pressing legal and policy controversies and questions at the crossroads of gender, sexuality, religion, and public life.

Distinguished Lecture by Manuel A. Vásquez: Pneumatic Religions in the Americas

March 27, 2014, Hemispheric Institute, New York University

Professor Vásquez examined the explosive diversification and expansion of “pneumatic” religions in the Americas. In this lecture, Dr. Vásquez analyzes the sources, morphologies, and socio-political implications of these phenomena, arguing that the vitality and proliferation of pneumatic religions call for a rethinking of the traditional ways in which religion has been studied in the hemisphere, suggesting approaches that foreground performance, power, embodiment, materiality, and the dialectics of deterritorialization and reterritorialization.

Symposium: Religious Exemptions, Sexual Freedom, and the Biopolitics of U.S.

October 5, 2012, Hemispheric Institute, New York University

The frame for this one-day symposium is the broad array of constitutional, public policy, political, and ethical issues implicated in the practice of religious exemptions in both federal law and US states. The timing of the symposium – on the heels of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on the affordable care act; in the midst of a general election campaign in which health care, reproductive rights, and same-sex marriage remain profoundly divisive issues; and just months before the 40th anniversary of Roe – makes this discussion all the more urgent.

Panel Discussion: Jill Stevenson & Anthony Petro — Affecting Performances: The Media & Embodied Politics of Contemporary Christianity

November 14, 2013, Hemispheric Institute, New York University

In her recently published book, Sensational Devotion: Evangelical Performance in 21st-Century America, Jill Stevenson looks to biblical theme parks, Passion plays, Holy Land recreations, mega-churches, and creationist museums to examine the sensuous practices and performative genres that shape evangelical beliefs—and believers. In this forum with Anthony Petro, Stevenson will discuss the interplay between religion and media and the role of embodied feelings in the creation of religious worlds.

Policy Roundtable: A nova conquista espiritual das américas

January 9, 2012, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

“A Nova Conquista Espiritual das Américas” focused on the relationships between evangelical ministries and political parties and Afro-Brazilian and indigenous Brazilian religious communities and practices and their broader implications for religious pluralism in Brazil. Co-organized with Dr. Leda Martins of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, the event brought together scholars from throughout Brazil with leaders from Candomblé, Congado and indigenous spiritual communities.

Policy Roundtable: Ciudadanías del cuerpo: emplazamientos al estado y a la iglesia

October 20-21, 2011, Universidad de Chile

This policy roundtable convened a broad range of scholars, advocates, journalists and policy practitioners in a discussion about the key issues around which the Catholic Church and other communities of faith exercise their political power in the public sphere. Event proceedings are being edited for a special issue of Nomadías, the journal of the Center for the Study of Gender and Culture in Latin America that will be published in 2013.

Co-organized by the Hemispheric Institute with the Center for the Study of Gender and Culture in Latin America and the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Chile.

Policy Roundtable: Religiones, matrimonio igualitario y aborto: alianzas con y entre actores religiosos por los derechos sexuales y reproductivos en Argentina

October 14, 2011

ISEDET Argentina“Religiones, Matrimonio Igualitario y Aborto: Alianzas con y entre Actores Religiosos por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos en Argentina” (Religions, Marriage Equality and Abortion: Alliances With and Between Religious Actors for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Argentina), brought together political and religious actors, advocacy groups, elected officials and journalists to discuss the central contributions of religious leaders to the Marriage Equality campaign and to examine the role they might play in the debate surrounding the legalization of abortion.

Co-sponsored by the Hemispheric Institute, the Sexualities Studies Group of the University of Buenos Aires, and Catholics for the Right to Decide-Argentina.

Policy Roundtable: Biopolítica y religión: Lo público y lo privado en los recientes debates sobre los derechos sexuales y reproductivos

September 8, 2011, Colegio de México

This one-day policy roundtable convened scholars and policy practitioners engaged in theoretical and applied research and advocacy and took place on September 8, 2011 at the Colegio de México with the co-sponsorship of the Center for Sociological Studies. The event’s focus on “the public and the private’ provided a broad focus for the researchers and advocacy groups to discuss the evolving political and policy complexities in Mexico’s current context. Discussions focused on the challenges of developing and implementing new public policies in the context of the expansion of rights, the effects of changing the configurations on the public and private in political and policy debates, and the ongoing transformation of Church-State relations in the country.

Co-organized by the Hemispheric Institute and Colegio de México's Center for Sociological Studies.

Conference: States of Devotion: Religion, Neoliberalism and the Politics of the Body in the Americas

November 4-5, 2010, New York University

This conference examined the changing role of religious discourses and practices in the wake of the transformations wrought by neoliberal globalization upon communities, societies and polities across the Hemisphere. The event included panel presentations, plenary discussions, a photo exhibit, and a performance cabaret.

Co-organized by the Hemispheric Institute and theCenter for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.

Symposium: The Traffic in Policy: Religion, Sexuality and the State

April 30, 2010, New York University

This one-day symposium examined ways in which religious discourses and movements are crossing national borders and shaping policy debates, legislation, and public spheres in the Americas.

Co-organized by the Hemispheric Institute and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.