Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico

Article excerpt

Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico. By Ben Fallaw. (Durham: Duke University Press. 2013. Pp. xx, 330. $94.95 clothbound, ISBN 978-08223-5322-5; $25.95 paperback, ISBN 978-0-8223-5337-9.)

For those whose careers have been informed by efforts to understand the worlds of the Latin American poor, the "everyday forms of state formation" approach has proved useful. Indeed, for scholars whose multiarchival, physically dangerous work led to previously unknown worlds populated by communities inhabited by women, indigenous people, and the poor-populations that previously had gone unseen in much of the scholarly literature-this approach proved crucial. It enabled "ordinary" people and their complex material cultural perspectives, rather than simply those of Mexican elites, to emerge historiographically. Clearly, it has been an approach based on the scholarly recognition of the material natures of perspectives, of the intimate connections between ideas and the resulting political and economic activities, the sort of comprehensive approach long employed by thoughtful scholars elsewhere. In fact, in his new monograph, Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico, Ben Fallaw both builds on his understanding of that approach and contests it.

In his assessment of numerous Catholic responses to the governmental efforts of Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas to transform Mexican society for the better, Fallaw maintains that he will not attempt to assess the metaphysical belief systems informing Catholic behavior. Instead, he focuses on multiple Catholic legal and illegal acts that in many ways threatened the postrevolutionary governmental efforts to transform rural Mexico. Although the monograph lacks maps, Fallaw compares and contrasts Catholic responses to the postrevolutionaiy government in the diverse states of Campeche, Hidalgo, Guerrero, and Guanajuato, where he discovered multiple antigovernmental Catholic-based acts. These acts ranged from legal use of the Mexican government's electoral structure and boycotts of governmental schools to refusals to participate in (and efforts to undermine or transform) the land reform and the murder of teachers. Although previous scholarship has demonstrated similar antigovernmental resistance prompted by relationships between the Catholic hierarchy and ordinary Catholics, Fallaw's focus on what he calls a "radial strategy" (p. …

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