Flipper receives Fulbright award for research on Chilean Catholicism

February 4, 2019

Bellarmine University's Dr. Joseph Flipper, an associate professor of theology, has received a Fulbright award that will support a research trip to Chile in the spring 2020 semester.
In Chile, Flipper will:
  • work on a research project -- “Decolonial Worlds: Social Space and Twentieth-Century Chilean Catholicism” -- which examines social Catholicism in Chile prior to the dictatorship.
  • teach an undergraduate course on religion and U.S. politics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago.
  • work with scholars at that university's Center for Studies on Religion and the faculty for history, geography and political science.
  • explore the archives of Saint Alberto Hurtado, a 20th century Jesuit priest, attorney, writer and social worker.
Flipper's Fulbright research will also feature in a book he's writing, "The Theological Worlds of Twentieth-Century Catholicism," which will include a chapter on Catholicism in Chile.
Joseph Flipper
"Chile is unique in Latin American Catholicism," said Flipper. "In the 19th century, the Chilean Catholic Church voluntarily -- though gradually -- gave up its place of privilege, but did not conceive of this as a retreat from Chilean society. Chilean Catholics were able to reconceive the social space of the Church apart from colonial space, and to articulate a vision for how the Church could thrive without it. And this vision was significant for a new way of thinking about the relationship between the Church and the world."
The prestigious Fulbright Program, founded in 1946, offers teaching and research awards in more than 125 countries. Flipper is the 10th Bellarmine faculty member to receive a Fulbright award in recent years. His trip is pending visa approval.
"Before getting the letter from Fulbright, I was like a student waiting for acceptance letters from colleges," said Flipper. "I was thrilled to receive it. There are only a handful of spots available for each country every year, so I feel blessed to be able to represent my university and to be a cultural ambassador from the U.S."
While reading a book in high school, Flipper says he saw a photograph of the Chilean landscape at a place where the mountains climb out of the ocean. It made him immediately want to travel to Chile. 
"Until now, I've never had an excuse to travel to the tip of the world," he said.
Flipper, who lived in Mexico for two years, says he'll work on re-learning his admittedly rusty Spanish over the next year. He'll travel to Chile with his wife -- who has previously lived in Panama -- and children. They plan to spend the weekends exploring Santiago and attending as many Chilean soccer games as they can.
Flipper received a doctor of philosophy in religious studies from Marquette University. His research bridges systematic theology and cultural history. Flipper joined Bellarmine from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he taught and conducted research as a postdoctoral fellow. His interests include political theology, transnational Catholicism and Black theology.

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