Witnessing the Seeds of Liberation: Immigrant Detention and Pedagogical Encounter

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2021


David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies


Having first learned about liberation theology in college, I arrived at Harvard Divinity School in the mid 1990s with a desire to deepen my understanding of this historic movement. Through a class with theologian Harvey Cox, I was introduced to an insightful little primer by renowned Brazilian liberation theologians (and brothers), Leonardo and Clodovis Boff. The Boffs describe three levels through which liberation can be realized: the professional, the pastoral and the popular. As they explain, these levels are distinguished by their logic and language. While popular theology “will be expressed in everyday speech, with spontaneity and feeling,” professional theology “adopts a more scholarly language, with the structure and restraint proper to it” (1987). Residing in between the two, pastoral theology bridges these different languages through careful listening and earnest dialogue.