LAC Main Seminar Series: Proponent, Provider, or Bridge? Religion, Social Welfare, and Inequality in Latin America

Conveners: David Doyle and Javier Pérez Sandoval, University of Oxford

Speaker: Matthew Carnes S.J., Georgetown University 


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Abstract: What role do religious organizations play in shaping the provision of social welfare  in developing and middle-income countries? Christian churches have been central actors in Latin  American civil society, mobilizing their adherents and helping define the nature of citizenship.  They have also been major providers of social welfare, channeling charitable resources and  directly providing health and education services. How do these church activities shape state  provision of social welfare? Do churches foment citizens’ consciousness of rights, making them  more effective in demanding the expansion of state involvement in welfare provision? Or do  church-sponsored social services crowd out state service providers? Alternatively, do church actors take on bridging roles, fostering solidaristic connections between economic sectors or classes or between the private and public sectors?


Matthew Carnes, S.J., is an associate professor in the Department of Government and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

His research examines the dynamics of labor and social welfare policy in developing and middle-income countries. A specialist on Latin America, he has conducted extensive field research in Argentina, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, and he has worked on development projects in Honduras, Mexico, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Ecuador. He is the author of Continuity Despite Change: The Politics of Labor Regulation in Latin America (Stanford University Press, 2014), and numerous journal articles.

He served as the Director of the Georgetown Center for Latin American Studies from 2016-2022. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame (Spring 2009), National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University (Academic Year 2011-2012), and he is currently a visiting fellow at Campion Hall.