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Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 499–520 | Cite as

Religious Fragmentation, Social Disintegration? Social Networks and Evangelical Protestantism in Rural Andean Bolivia

  • Marygold Walsh-DilleyEmail author
Article
  • 43 Downloads

Abstract

Latin America remains, much more than any other region in the world, dominated by a single religion: Catholicism. But in the second half of the twentieth century, a so-called “Protestant wave” spread across the region increasing religious diversity. This wave was spurred on by Pentecostal and other evangelical Protestant churches, denominations that challenge the religious syncretism, state-church relationships, and many of the institutions and relationships that structure social and cultural life in Latin America. These changes can bring tensions, conflicts, or abuses that can have a socially disintegrating effect. This paper uses “religious fragmentation” as a lens to examine this process in rural highland Bolivia. Drawing upon qualitative fieldwork in two communities, this paper first examines the motivations for and contestations surrounding increasing Protestant affiliation and second asks how religious fragmentation interacts with existing social networks and relationships. Paying special attention to reciprocity networks, which are culturally and economically significant in these indigenous communities, this paper argues that non-religious social relationships and activities can act as intervening variables that overcome the social fragmentations of religious change.

Keywords

Protestant wave Religion Religious pluralism Reciprocity Alcohol Andes Bolivia Solidarity Evangelicalism 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to thank three generous reviewers for their thoughtful comments and suggestions. Funding for field research was provided by the Inter-America Foundation and the University of New Mexico’s Latin American and Iberian Institute.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Honors CollegeUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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