Meet the Fellows: 2019 Newcombe Fellow Craig Johnson

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2019 class of Fellows includes Craig Johnson, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of California, Berkeley. Craig offers some background for his project:

My dissertation research analyzes the interaction between right-wing theologians and nationalist political actors in Chile and Argentina in the mid-twentieth century, temporally centered on the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) and the decade of regional Ecclesiastical conferences that followed. Adding this lens to existing understandings of the right in Latin America, which focus on the Cold War and secular politics, means taking the members of the right seriously as complex historical actors. Bringing theologians into the study of the right not only illuminates the right-wing actors they inspired but reveals a vibrant and international Catholic world that spanned not only Latin America but Europe from the 60’s to the 80’s. Vatican II was a driving force behind the radicalization of the political right throughout Latin America. Conservative theologians interacted directly with these members of the political right, and those interactions impacted their theology.

Exploring the relationship between the universal ideology and identity of Catholicism and the nationalist extremism of the Latin American right requires moving beyond a national frame and adopting a regional perspective. It also means analyzing the messages around orthodox Catholic theology alongside the actions they inspired and the groups of people who committed them. Balancing between a study of intellectual discourses and the real human actors inspired by them provides a holistic perspective on both the growth of the radical right and the influence the processes of the Council had on it. My project is balanced between the worlds of political theology and theological politics, bridging the gap between the intellectual discourse of priests and professors and the rallies and terrorism of the political right.

Craig’s dissertation, titled Theology Against Subversion: Conservative Catholics and Right Wing Paramilitaries after the Second Vatican Council, studies the confluence between right-wing politics and conservative Catholic theology in the mid-20th century, focusing on Argentina, Chile, and Spain. For more information on the 2019 Newcombe Fellows, click here.



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