Past Event

Religion, Race and the Politics of Freedom

February 3, 2021
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
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Online Event

The rise of extreme right policies and ultraconservative governments are directly connected to the influence of religious organizations and movements on the ground; be it Christian fundamentalism in Brazil or Christian nationalism in the United States. At the same time, the mobilization of religious actors has been instrumental in recent struggles for justice, equity, and inclusion in both countries. From white supremacists to the persecution of religions rooted within African traditions, and from the Reverend Raphael Warnock's election to the U.S. Senate to Brazil's Movimento Negro Evangélico, religion, race and politics are fundamentally interconnected, shaping policies on sexuality, public security, incarceration, vaccination, education, and more.  In this panel discussion, we will explore the histories and contemporary dynamics of religion, race, and freedom in Brazil and the US, touching upon the commonalities, differences, and interrelations between Afro-descendent religiosities and political struggles in the Americas.


  • Josef Sorett: Professor of Religion and African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University, where he is also chair of the Department of Religion and directs the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice. As an interdisciplinary scholar of religion and race in the Americas, Josef employs primarily historical and literary approaches to the study of religion in black communities and cultures in the United States. His first book, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 2016) illumines how religion has figured in debates about black art and culture across the 20th century. A second book, The Holy Holy Black: The Ironies of an American Secular, is forthcoming with Oxford UP. Additionally, Josef is editing an anthology, The Sexual Politics of Black Churches, which will be published by Columbia University Press.
  • Ronilso PachecoBrazilian pastor and activist, Creator of the movement of public classes that took place on the streets of Rio de Janeiro between the years 2014-2016, called "The Gospel and Civil Disobedience". holds a degree in Theology from PUC-Rio and is a master student of Theology at the Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University (USA). He is the author of “Ocupar, Resistir, Subverter: Igreja eteologia em tempos de racismo, violência e opressão” (Novos Diálogos, 2016), “TeologiaNegra: o sopro antirracista do Espírito” (Novos Diálogos, 2019) and organizerof the book “Jesus e os Direitos Humanos: porque o reino de Deus é justiça, paze alegria”, Published by the Vladimir Herzog Institute, in 2018. He is also a columnist for UOL Notícias and a contributor to The Intercept Brazil.


  • Kendall Thomas: scholar of comparative constitutional law and human rights whose teaching and research focus on critical race theory, intersectionality, legal philosophy, feminist legal theory, and law and sexuality. Thomas is the co-founder and director of the Center for the Study of Law and Culture at Columbia Law School, where he leads interdisciplinary projects and programs that explore how the law operates as one of the central ways to create meaning in society. He is a founder of Amend the 13th, a movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to end enforced prison labor. Thomas has taught at Columbia Law since 1986. He has been a visiting professor at Stanford Law School and a visiting professor in American studies and Afro-American studies at Princeton University. His writing has appeared in volumes of collected essays and in journals including National Black Law JournalWidener Law Symposium Journal, and Columbia Journal of European Law.

This panel will take place on Zoom. To register click here. 

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