I took grades in Philosophy, Universidad del Salvador 1991; Theology, Universidad del Salvador 2007; Master in Social Science, Universidad Nacional de Cordoba 2001; Ph.D. in Social Sciences, Universidad de Buenos Aires 2011.
I am a sociologist of religion, with a particular focus on the interaction between religion and modernity in Latin America. I look for new ways to explore and understand religious practices beyond established categories and theoretical frameworks. In sociology there are two dominant theoretical approaches to the relationship between religion and modernity: secularization (basically stating that the more modern societies are necessarily less religious) and religious markets (modernity gives rise to religious diversity and more religion).
In spite of their differences, and the many nuances within each of them, these approaches are both based on the assumption that the historical particularities of North Atlantic societies (either Europe or the United States) are universally applicable to the rest of the world. I argue that this overlooks key dynamics of Latin American religiosity. I show that when we look beyond the categories sociology has been using to define religion, we see that modernity has definitively changed religion in Latin America-but that religion is nevertheless alive and present in everyday life. If we pay attention to everyday practices, we discover that the interaction of religion and modernity in Latin America differs from the one that developed in the North Atlantic world. You can learn more about this project here.
My overall research agenda focuses on practices; looking at religion as an ongoing human relation with a supra-human power. I pay attention to the concrete historical and cultural context, to the practitioner’s material and embodied engagement, exploring how a religious persons relates with divinity. Religious things happen when there is a relationship. Exploring religion from the perspective of the practices, I am not necessarily talking about a reality that conforms to churches’ mandates, nor to the variables sociologists have been using to measure religious practice. Instead, I study what people do to connect with the supra-human.
In my classes, I have three main pedagogical principles. First, I expect students to develop critical and analytical skills. Second, I think students bear the burden of the work. I understand my role as a teacher and mentor as a guiding one in their journey, providing engaging readings, posing questions, challenging assumptions, encouraging their quest for social justice. But they are the ones who have to do the job. Third, ongoing evaluation and adaptation of the syllabus; every semester I ask for feedback from students, TAs, and my own perception and adapt the classes according to that assessment.
Lived Religion in Latin America: An Enchanted Modernity, 2021 (Oxford University Press)
On August 3rd, 1976, in Córdoba, Argentina's second largest city, Fr. James Week and five seminarians from the Missionaries of La Salette were kidnapped. A mob burst into the house they shared, claiming to be police looking for “subversive fighters.” The seminarians were jailed and tortured for two months before eventually being exiled to the United States.
The perpetrators were part of the Argentine military government that took power under President General Jorge Videla in 1976, ostensibly to fight Communism in the name of Christian Civilization. Videla claimed to lead a Catholic government, yet the government killed and persecuted many Catholics as part of Argentina’s infamous Dirty War. Critics claim that the Church did nothing to alleviate the situation, even serving as an accomplice to the dictators. Leaders of the Church have claimed they did not fully know what was going on, and that they tried to help when they could. Gustavo Morello draws on interviews with victims of forced disappearance, documents from the state and the Church, field observation, and participant observation in order to provide a deeper view of the relationship between Catholicism and state terrorism during Argentina's Dirty War.
Morello uses the case of the seminarians to explore the complex relationship between Catholic faith and political violence during the Dirty War—a relationship that has received renewed attention since Argentina’s own Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis. Unlike in countries such as Chile and Brazil, Argentina's political violence was seen as an acceptable tool in propagating political involvement; both the guerrillas and the military government were able to gain popular support. Morello examines how the Argentine government deployed a discourse of Catholicism to justify the violence that it imposed on Catholics and how the official Catholic hierarchy in Argentina rationalized their silence in the face of this violence. Most interestingly, Morello investigates how Catholic victims of state violence and their supporters understood their own faith in this complicated context: what it meant to be Catholic under Argentina’s dictatorship.
2022 ‘Catholicism and State Terror in Argentina’ in Sara Brown and Stephen Smith, The Routledge Handbook of Religion, Genocide, and Mass Atrocity, Routledge, London.
2021 "Catholicism in Context: Religious Practice in Latin America," Journal of Global Catholicism: Vol. 6: Iss. 1, Article 3. p.46-63. DOI: 10.32436/2475-6423.1104 https://crossworks.holycross.edu/jgc/vol6/iss1/3
2021 “Nobody prays alone. The practice of prayer among Latin American Catholics”, International Journal of Latin American Religions. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41603-021-00144-4
2021 “Women, Tattoos, and Religion. An exploration into women’s inner life.” Fist author with Mikayla Sanchez, Diego Moreno, Jack Engelman, and Alexis Evangel; Religions 12: 517. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070517
2021 "I’ve got you under my skin. Tattoos and religion in three Latin American cities." Social Compass. February, Vol 68, n 1, p. 61-80. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0037768620962367
2021 The Pope, the Poor, and the Location of Religion in Argentina's Public Sphere. Latin American Perspectives, Issue 241, Vol. 48 No. 6, November 2021, 179–193 DOI: 10.1177/0094582X19879410
2019 “Cambios religiosos y dinámicas demográficas: más allá de la Teoría de la Secularización. El caso del catolicismo en la ciudad de Córdoba, Argentina”. First author with Hugo H. Rabbia. Revista de Estudios Sociales 69: 14-27. https:// doi.org/10.7440/res69.2019.02
2019 "Why Study Religion from a Latin American Sociological Perspective? An Introduction to Religions Issue, “Religion in Latin America, and among Latinos Abroad”." Religions 10, no. 6: 399.
2019 “The Symbolic Efficacy of Pope Francis’ Religious Capital and the Agency of the Poor”. Sociology, https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038519853109
2018 “Catholic legitimization up for grabs: The political pluralization of Argentinean Catholicism in the 1960s” (First author with Fortunato Mallimaci) Journal of Contemporary Religion, v. 33, i. 3, p. 427-445.
2018 “Latin America’s Contemporary Religious Imaginary”. Social Imaginaries v4. n2 p. 87-106
2017 “Introduction. Lived religion in Latin America and Europe. Roman Catholics and their practices” in Visioni LatinoAmericane, y. IX, n. 17, Luglio 2017. P. 13-23.
2017 "Making sense of Latin America’s religious landscape" (First author with Catalina Romero, Hugo Rabbia and Nestor Da Costa) Critical Research on Religion. Article first published online: September 20, 2017 https://doi.org/10.1177/2050303217732131 Vol 5, Issue 3, pp. 308 – 326, December 2017.
2019 Campion Hall, University of Oxford, U.K. D’Arcy Lectures, January – March. Hilary term.
Visiting Scholar - Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, 2009 - 2010.
Grant from Irmgard Coninx Foundation for the Tenth Berlin Roundtables on Urban Governance. “Urban Governance: Innovation, Insecurity and the Power of Religion”, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), Humboldt University, Berlin, March 2009.
Grant for the Symposium “Politics and the Religious Imagination”. Faith Forward Series: Exploring Religion, Culture and Conflict Symposium. Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canada, March 2008.
The transformation of lived religion in urban Latin America: a study of contemporary Latin Americans’ experience of the transcendent (*).
This groundbreaking project explores how urban, contemporary Latin Americans, both believers and non-believers, from different social classes and generations experience transcendence in everyday life. This study will not rely on past approaches to studying secularization in North America and Europe, but rather it will bring a new perspective—that of ordinary people acknowledging their free will and creativity in the religious/spiritual realm. How do people articulate free will within their religious/spiritual traditions and exercise their creativity and talent for innovation in prayer or in other religious/spiritual practices? How have everyday life dynamics and religious competition affected lived religion? We will explore the quest for the divine at the borders of religious institutions and in relation to them, in 3 different cities which have experienced significant religious pluralization and competition: Córdoba, Argentina; Lima, Perú; and Montevideo, Uruguay. We will sample people from different SES groups, self-identified as ‘nones’ (agnostics, non-affiliated, atheist, etc.), Catholics, Evangelicals (including main line Protestants, Evangelicals, neo-Evangelicals), and Other Traditions (including Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Afro cults, Native American spiritualities, New Age, etc.), collecting ‘religious/spiritual narratives’ through in-depth interviews of life histories and ‘object-elicitation’ meetings about pictures of significant places, symbols, and meaningful artifacts. We will focus on the story itself, using the interviewees’ spontaneous narrations as our main resource to develop a grounded theory of Latin Americans’ lived religiosity/spirituality. The project will contribute to a growing understanding of human nature and its relationship with the divine by disseminating the findings to scholarly audiences (conferences, papers, book), religious/spiritual leaders and journalists (workshops), and the general public (press releases, trade book).
(*)This project is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
2022 Interview in No Esperen Milagros, AM Con Vos 1420, Buenos Aires, February 7th.
2022 Tattoos are deeply meaningful -and religious- for many young people, “Jesuitical” a podcast of America, Friday, February 4th. https://open.spotify.com/episode/4sYKLbbUGUmryHfTjRoJLN?si=0803a2865768426b
2022 Media Mention, The Wall Street Journal, Francis Rocca “Why the Catholic Church Is Losing Latin America”, January 11; https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-catholic-church-is-losing-latin-america-11641914388
2021 For many, a tattoo isn’t just ink. It’s a religious experience. In America, December 2nd, on line https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/12/02/religious-tattoos-241412
2021 PBS, In their own words. Pope Francis; interviewed. https://www.pbs.org/video/pope-francis-bs5uc7/