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Prof. Roberto Blancarte, PhD

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of interest

  • Secularization and "Laicity"
  • Religion in Latin America 
  • Religion and politics 
  • Populism, religion/secularity and governance

Populism, religion, and secularity

This project will analyse populism and its relationship to religion and secularity in Europe and Latin America. Populism has been a widespread phenomenon at least since the second half of the 20th century, albeit with different manifestations. Today, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic represent some of its characteristics: anti-globalism, nationalism, nativism, protectionism, anti-migration and xenophobic discourses and other elements of a political culture based on isolationist ideals.

Religion has often played an ambivalent role in populist regimes. It has often been used as an identity marker to establish national cultures and to exclude others that are portrayed as "foreign intruders" or "internal enemies". Even secular populisms often had and still have a complex and ambivalent relationship with religious groups and institutions. Whether they form formal or non-formal alliances with them, use them politically or integrate them into their ideological schemes, while in the long run these alliances usually ended in open conflict. In their "struggle" against supposedly evil and corrupt elites, populisms often establish a binary world view that divides everything and everyone into friend and foe, allies or rivals, leaving no room for intermediate positions.

Boris Johnson, Matteo Salvini and other politicians in Western, Central or Eastern Europe have many similarities with Jair Bolsonaro, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Evo Morales or Nicolás Maduro in Latin America. As a result of political calculation or sincere religious convictions, they have in various ways reintroduced the sacred or religious into the sphere of the state. In most cases, this reintroduction implied a new understanding of the role of religion in politics. Frequently, however, it is not the traditional churches that strengthen, but an individualised, eclecticist religiosity, recycled and remixed into religious traditions and then used as a new legitimising force. In this constellation, the paradoxical situation of a continuous secularisation of society can be observed, while at the same time the political influence of religion is growing.

In Latin America a populism with very specific political characteristics has developed: "clientelism" that creates political dependence, especially with regard to elections. This leads to an "infantilisation" of the social sector and paternalistic attitudes: The "good people" must be guided here and protected from evil agents who harm them. For this reason, in many cases "caudillism" and messianic signs appear. The political leader relies on religious or sacred sources to legitimise his power and tends to have a double role, as high priest who makes moral judgements and as government leader who makes political decisions.

In European populisms, religion plays a different role. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have changed the secular atmosphere and brought the historical role of Christianity back into the discussion, rethinking identities and pluralism. It has also questioned the role of democratic institutions. Nationalism and isolationism have also shaken the authority of traditional religions and changed the entire political culture of many countries.


2006 - 2012

Dean (Director), Centro de Estudios Sociológicos (CES), El Colegio de México

2001- 2006

Academic Coordinator, Centro de Estudios Sociológicos (CES), El Colegio de México

since 1999

Full time professor researcher, Centro de Estudios Sociológicos (CES), El Colegio de México

since 1999

Adviser and partial time researcher, Programa Interdisciplinario de Estudios sobre las Religiones (PIER), El Colegio Mexiquense (Mexico)

1998 - 1999

Chief of advisers, for Vice-minister for Religious Affairs of the Ministry of the Interior (Mexico)

1990 - 1995

Academic Coordinator and Professor Researcher of El Colegio Mexiquense, Zinacatepec (Mexico)

​1989 - 1995

President, Centro de Estudios de las Religiones en México

1995 - 1998

Political and Cultural Counselor at the Mexican Embassy to the Holy See

1991 - 1992

Academic Coordinator, Fundación Nexos

​1989 - 1999

Full time Professor researcher, Centro de Estudios Históricos of El Colegio Mexiquense (Mexico)


Doctoral thesis, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México

1984 - 1985

Chief, United Nations Department of Economic Organizations in the General Directorate for Multilateral Economic Relations, Secretariat of Foreign Relations of Mexico


Chief of the Department of International Economic Negotiations in General Directorate for Multilateral Economic Relations, Secretariat of Foreign Relations, México

Relevant Publications

  • Barranco Villafán, Bernardo, and Roberto Blancarte. AMLO Y La Religión: El Estado Laico Bajo Amenaza. Primera edición. Ciudad de México: Grijalbo, 2019.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. “Laicity in Latin America.” In Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions. Edited by Henri Gooren. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2019.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. “Secularization in Latin America.” In Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions. Edited by Henri Gooren. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2019. Gooren, Henri, ed. Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2019.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. “La Sécularité Mexicaine: Entre Le Retour De La Religion Dans L'espace Public Et La Consolidation D'une République Laïque.” In La Sécularisation En Question: Religions Et Laïcités Au Prisme Des Sciences Sociales. Edited by Jean Baubérot and Portier, Philippe, Willaime, Jean-Paul 3. Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2019.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. La República Laica En México. Primera edición. Sociología y política. Ciudad de México: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2019.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. Diccionario De Religiones En América Latina. Primera edición. Sección de Obras de Antropología. Ciudad de México: Fondo de Cultura Económica; El Colegio de México, 2018.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. “Indicateurs De Laïcité Dans Les Démocraties Contemporaines: Analyse Comparative Entre Le Mexique Et L’argentine.” Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions, 4 Editions de l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) (2017): 191–236.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. “¿Por Qué La Religión “Regresó” a La Esfera Pública En Un Mundo Secularizado?” Estudios Sociológicos XXXIII, no. 99 (2015): 659–73.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. “La Construction De La République Laïque Au Mexique.” In La Laïcité En Amérique Latine. Edited by Arnaud Martin, 384. Recherches Amériques latines. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2015.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. “Le Mexique, Une République Laïque: Fin Du Chemin Ou Début Des Débats?” In Laïcité, Laïcités, Reconfigurations Et Nouveaux Défis. Edited by Jean Baubérot, Micheline Milot and Philippe Portier, 281–307. Paris: Éditions de la Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, 2014.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. Los Retos De La Laicidad Y La Secularización En El Mundo Contemporáneo. 1a ed. México, D.F.: El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Sociológicos, 2008.
  • Blancarte, Roberto. “México: A Mirror of the Sociology of Religion.” In The SAGE Handbook of Sociology of Religion. Edited by James A. Beckford and N. J. Demerath. London: Sage, 2007.