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Kenneth P. Serbin

Professor, History

Kenneth P. Serbin, Ph.D., professor and chair in the Department of History, served as vice president, president, and immediate past president of the Brazilian Studies Association (2004-2010).  He also was the co-chair of the Brazil Section of the Latin American Studies Association from 2003-2006.




Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, History (1993)
M.A., University of California, San Diego, History (1988)
B.A., Yale, History (1982)

Scholarly and Creative Work

Dr. Kenneth P. Serbin's research focuses on the history of the Catholic Church and social and reproductive issues, the relationship between religion and democracy, and the revolutionary left in Brazil. Serbin's book Secret Dialogues: Church-State Relations, Torture, and Social Justice in Authoritarian Brazil (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000) appeared in a special augmented Portuguese edition with Companhia das Letras, Brazil’s top publisher, and received wide coverage in the Brazilian news and cultural media. In 2003 it won the Book Prize of the Brazil Section of the Latin American Studies Association. Serbin’s book Needs of the Heart: A Social and Cultural History of Brazil’s Clergy and Seminaries was published by University of Notre Dame press (2006) and won the same prize. In 2008 it was also issued by Companhia das Letras. Serbin is the co-editor of O bispo de Volta Redonda: memórias de Dom Waldyr Calheiros, an oral autobiography of Dom Waldyr Calheiros, one of Brazil’s leading bishops (2001). He is also the author of “The Catholic Church, Religious Pluralism, and Democracy in Brazil,” a chapter in the edited volume Democratic Brazil: Actors, Institutions, and Processes (2000). Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Fulbright-Hays program, Serbin’s current project is “From Revolutionaries to Rulers: How Brazil’s Radical Left Went from Kidnapping the American Ambassador to Building a Capitalist Giant.” It chronicles the history of a generation of militants who opposed Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) and U.S. imperialism and now hold positions of power. As part of this project, Serbin published “Mainstreaming the Revolutionaries: National Liberating Action and the Shift from Resistance to Democracy in Brazil, 1964-Present,” a chapter in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Moving from War to Peace (2009). Serbin is a former fellow of the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame and was a research associate of the North-South Center at the University of Miami. His many articles have appeared in the Hispanic American Historical Review, the Journal of Latin American Studies, Latin American Politics and Society, the Christian Century, National Catholic Reporter, In These Times, Folha de S. Paulo, O Estado de S. Paulo, Valor and other publications.

Teaching Interests

Serbin teaches courses on the History of Brazil, Colonial Latin America, Modern Latin America, Latin America through Film, Religion and Social Upheaval in Twentieth Century Latin America, History of Mexico, World History, and Heroic Journeys: The (Hi)story of Two Religious Congregations in the Modern World.