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Protestantism and Indigenous Mobilisation: The Moravian Church among the Miskitu Indians of Nicaragua


This article examines the role of the Protestant Moravian Church in the politicisation of Miskitu ethnic identity, and on the mobilisation of the Miskitu against the Sandinistas during the 1980s. It argues that changes in the institution of the Church during the 1960s and 70s, as a result of state policy, socio-economic context and internal conflicts within Miskitu society, led to Moravianism becoming a cultural marker of Miskitu ethnicity. At the same time, the encounter with and appropriation of the pastoral tactics of a Catholic priest resulted in a radicalisation of Miskitu Moravian pastors on indigenous issues. When the Miskitu came to mobilise against the Sandinistas, the Moravian Church was the expressive vehicle and the institutional means through which the mobilisation took place. The article reveals how politicised ethnic identities find their expression in religious institutions.

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This article is based upon fieldwork conducted in Nicaragua, which was funded by the Denyer and Johnson Travel Scholarship, Oxford University, the Henrietta Hutton Memorial Award, Royal Geographical Society, and the Yvonne Workman Fund, Mansfield College, Oxford. I would also like to thank an anonymous reviewer of the Journal of Latin American Studies for helpful comments in making revisions to this article.
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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-latin-american-studies
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