Carlos Mendoza-Álvarez, O.P. (Lee Pellegrini)
Professor of Theology Carlos Mendoza-Álvarez, finishing up his first academic year at Boston College, brings an international sensibility to his work as a theologian examining issues of oppression, violence, and resistance.
A Dominican priest who was born in Mexico and earned a doctorate from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, Fr. Mendoza-Álvarez was a visiting scholar at BC last spring. Prior to coming to BC, he was a research professor at the Iberoamericana University of Mexico City, a Jesuit university, from 2001 to 2021. He also has been a lecturer and visiting professor at other universities in the United States, as well as Switzerland, Brazil, Germany, Colombia, Korea, and South Africa. He serves on the board of directors of Concilium: International Journal for Theology, a journal of theological thinking featuring the work of theologians from five continents published in six languages.
“An openness and commitment to contemporary issues and social justice is here at Boston College, but an international global perspective is important,” said Fr. Mendoza-Álvarez. “My goal is to build some bridges between Latin American theology and North American theology and also from Africa, Asia, and Europe. I think Boston College could be a good partner in this conversation and play an important role for that here in the Boston area and in the U.S.”
The Theology Department’s international reputation (“one of the best in the world”) was a compelling reason to come to BC, said Fr. Mendoza-Álvarez, whose expertise is in fundamental theology. He leads a research project called the Beyond Global Violence Initiative, studying what is called decolonial theology, which involves listening carefully to how different groups are facing violence, such as climate change, migration, patriarchy, or human rights violations.
“So those kind of issues are global, and theologically we need to think about that and have something to say to and with those communities,” he said.
He hopes to organize a conference for 2023-2024 that would focus on the question of naming violence and how communities create a new narrative, a new way of resisting this kind of violence.
This semester, he organized a series of webinars on narratives of resistance, offered in English and Spanish, that focused on naming and facing systemic violence in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil, and the U.S. An international slate of experts spoke on topics such as the hate rhetoric and Afro-Brazilian resistance; resistance from immigrant-activist communities in the U.S.; and the forced disappearances of people in Mexico.
Fr. Mendoza-Álvarez recently published a book, La resurrección como insurrección messiánica. Duelo, memoria y esperanza desde los sobrevivientes (The Resurrection as Messianic Insurrection. Mourning, Memory and Hope from the Survivors), in which resurrection is a narrative of empowerment for communities which have been traumatized by any kind of violence.
He envisions La resurrección como insurrección as the first of a trilogy. Future texts will look at how those communities represent their struggle for life, what kind of narratives or rituals empower them to continue resisting, searching for justice, and building peace.
“Resurrection is not only about the future, the afterlife, but the now for those communities and people who are struggling for life,” he said.
With his 20 years of experience teaching at a Jesuit university, Fr. Mendoza-Álvarez feels very much at home at BC.
“I know well the Jesuit way of thinking,” he said. “Both Dominicans and Jesuit orders are very committed to education, social justice, human rights, and the arts. We are probably the two main orders trying to make a conversation with modern societies.”
Fr. Mendoza-Álvarez teaches both undergraduates and graduate students. His graduate courses have drawn students from the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Europe, and Africa, and have resulted in very engaging and interesting conversations, he said.
He also teaches God, Self, and Society, a course that can fulfill the theology core requirement for undergraduates. The students he’s encountered in that class have been diverse in terms of their religious traditions and backgrounds. While many students are Catholic or from another Christian faith tradition, a significant portion are non-believers or non-practitioners.
“It’s a new generation of students, and many of them are more interested in spirituality, not religion,” he said, noting a strong interest in ecological issues and climate change among undergraduates. “They’re immediately excited to talk about ecology, climate change, and what the religions can do to avoid a catastrophe. I try to offer a kind of eco-theology, a theological reflection on ecology, and to talk about the theologians in Latin America, particularly feminist theologians, whose work is on ecology.
“I promote a kind of reflection with the undergrads about how their major, their field, their professional life will be connected to the ecological issues and then the spiritual issues. So that’s the path I founded here to meet them, to have a good conversation with them on intelligent terms.”
Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications | May 2022