David Christopher Thompson

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Simon Fraser U.

Grant number

Gr. 10663

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Thompson, David (Simon Fraser U.) "Break the Chain: An Ethnography of Brazil's Interfaith Decarceration Movement"

“Break the Chain” traces the role of faith within Brazil’s decarceration movement, a collective working to end mass incarceration and address its harms. It follows priests, secular activists, leaders of Afro-Brazilian religions and formerly incarcerated evangelicals who have all been drawn to this movement, and who reckon with the relationships between faith and punishment in the process. Building on the observation that religion is both a motivating force and a point of conflict, this study asks how these actors consider the theological stakes of decarceration and struggle to articulate new horizons of justice for both their communities and for Brazil as a whole. Based primarily in Rio de Janeiro, I will chart this work across grassroots activism; strategic planning sessions; and national campaigns for policy reform. The project considers how religion and incarceration both make and unmake one another within the diverse religious landscape of Brazil; it amplifies and directly contributes to the movement itself; and it asks how anthropology might grapple with abolition as a divine mandate or devotional practice.