May 22, 2014

Americas Initiative Explores Catholicism in the Region

Inspired by the first year of the papacy of Francis, the first pope from the Western Hemisphere, Georgetown hosted a conference on Catholicism in the Americas in spring 2014.

The conference was organized by the Americas Initiative, an interdisciplinary project of Georgetown College which sponsors faculty research and convenes faculty, students, and community members for discussions on salient regional topics. 

"Catholicism in the Americas: Historical Trajectories and Contemporary Challenges” was the eighth in a series of conferences since the initiative’s founding in 2006. 

Catholicism in the Americas Conference

“2014 seemed the moment to highlight [Catholicism] in our annual conference, bringing the university’s Catholic and Jesuit identity into conversation with the initiative’s emphasis on hemispheric diversity,” explained John Tutino, professor of history and director of the Americas Initiative.

Experts from Georgetown and universities such as Fordham, Rice, and University of California, Berkeley gathered to discuss key challenges facing the Church and Catholic communities across the Americas. 

The group focused on the diverse origins of New World Catholicism—from indigenous communities in Mexico and a slave plantation society in Brazil to immigrant communities in the United States and Argentina—which have led to a unique set of Catholic communities in the region.

Promoting Interdisciplinary Scholarship

The Americas Initiative promotes a cross-disciplinary approach to regional topics, including political economy, culture and gender, social relations, and racial and ethnic differences. 

“The scope of the initiative is intentionally broad, because the countries of this hemisphere have a shared history and experience with key issues,” Tutino explained. 

“We deliberately work against the tendency to compartmentalize scholarship, and rather promote exploration of how seemingly distinct issues influence one another, and how they are manifested across country borders," he added.

Faculty Seminars

The initiative also sponsors an ongoing, monthly seminar series for faculty members from the Departments of History, Spanish and Portuguese, Government, and Sociology, and the School of Foreign Service to review each other’s work in progress. 

“The seminars are an opportunity for faculty to receive peer feedback on their work, especially from different disciplines that could enrich the research with a new perspective, and perhaps help the work reach a wider audience,” said Tutino.