- Fellowship year:2014-2015
- University: University of Michigan
- Dissertation Topic/Category: Modern Europe
- Dissertation Title: Occupying God's House: Catholics, Sacred Space, and the Religiosity of Postwar Italian Politics
My dissertation places religion at the center of historical narratives about the European and global revolutions of 1968. It argues that churches were key spaces within which Italians expressed, negotiated, and contested religious and political beliefs in the decades following the Second World War. During the revolutionary atmosphere of the late 1960s, Catholics occupied churches to protest what they deemed to be autocratic cultures entrenched in the Catholic Church as well as the Italian workplace, government, and educational system. Through their occupations, Catholics sought to transform churches, and the Church and Italian society more broadly, into places and social spheres open to dialogue and debate. At the same time, Catholics engaged in global conversations about the meanings of, and boundaries between, religion and politics with activists in Western Europe, Latin America, and the United States.
My study of political and religious conflict and dialogue within the sacred space of churches has broad implications for our understanding of European, global, and Roman Catholic history. It emphasizes the important theological, intellectual, social, and political contributions of Catholics to the impulses of revolt and reform that convulsed societies around the world in the 1960s. It also argues that religious, political, and social developments at the local level in the 1940s and 1950s were significant catalysts for the ecclesiological changes endorsed by the Second Vatican Council and the political protests of the late 1960s. Finally, through its consideration of the dialogic possibilities of occupied space, it offers new ways to conceptualize religious and political protest movements in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, from the anti-war and anti-nuclear movements of the 1970s and 1980s to the more recent global Occupy movement.