The Power-Knowledge of Zion: Mexican Intentional Religious Community, 1920–64

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:50 AM
Room 205 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jason H. Dormady , Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX
Imported “American” religions from the United States entered Mexico in the nineteenth century, but not until after the Mexican Revolution (1910-20) did the “hothouse” of cultural experimentation, as historian Matthew Butler phrases it, create an explosion of local manifestations of “Mexican” non-Catholic Christianity.  This presentation will examine the construction of intentional religious community (physical communities with a shared ideological purpose) in Mexico after the Revolution in the context of Michel Foucault’s power-knowledge, and more specifically, his later transmutation of the concept into governmentality.

I argue that the absence of the rule of law (Foucault’s negative power of forbidding and prohibiting) allowed local religions to apply both their knowledge of religion and the official definition of “Revolution” as set by the ruling party to carve out a space in Mexican society.  Thus, while the practice of non-Catholic Christianity culturally relegated these believers to outsider status, the application of disciplined governmentality in their patriarchal groups allowed them to engage with the episteme of the day and define themselves as model citizens to the Revolutionary government.  These communities even went so far as to mark the Mexican Revolution as a moment in sacred history – a contributing factor in the creation of their own religious movements, and thus, part of the plan of God for the world.  This simultaneously made the Mexican Revolution as conceived of by the ruling party as not only a profane truth for Mexico, but a sacred truth for all of humanity. 

Case studies will include the Luz del Mundo (Pentecostals) of Guadalajara, Mexico as well as the Iglesia del Reino de la Plenitud (Mormon based) of Mexico State.  Comparative comments will also look at Catholic community activities in the post Revolution such as the right-wing Sinarquista movement and the modern Nueva Jerusalén movement of Michoacán.